Early life linked to some of the oldest rubies in the world: study – .

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Early life linked to some of the oldest rubies in the world: study – .


SASKATOON – As scientists at the University of Waterloo examined a 2.5 billion-year-old ruby, they discovered a rare find: evidence of ancient life.

Their clue was the residue of carbon, or graphite, recently found trapped inside some of the oldest gemstones in the world.

“The graphite inside this ruby ​​is truly unique. This is the first time we’ve seen evidence of ancient life in ruby ​​rocks, ”said Chris Yakymchuk, senior researcher and professor at the University of Waterloo, in a press release.

Some of the oldest ruby ​​deposits in the world are found in Greenland. It was there that the team discovered a ruby ​​sample that contained graphite, a mineral made up of pure carbon.

Analysis of the material revealed that the graphite in the ruby ​​showed remnants of early-living, potentially long-dead cyanobacteria.

Graphite was found in rocks 2.5 billion years old at a time when there was not much oxygen in the atmosphere and the majority of life was made up of microorganisms and algae films, the team said.

Yakymchuk’s team recently published their findings in the November edition of the peer-reviewed journal Ore Geology Reviews, with the journal Chemical Geology publishing their first findings in June.

Yakymchuk’s team initially studied the geology of stones to better understand what conditions are needed to form rubies.

“The presence of graphite also gives us more clues as to how rubies formed there, which is impossible to do directly based on the color and chemical makeup of a ruby,” Yakymchuk said. in the press release.

But just because graphite was initially found doesn’t mean that it was life.

To find out for sure, Yakymchuk’s team analyzed a property called isotopic composition, which measures the relative amounts of different carbon atoms. Over 98 percent of all carbon has a mass of 12 atomic mass units (carbon-12). But sometimes the carbon atoms are heavier, having a mass of 13 or 14 atomic mass units.

“Living matter is preferably made up of lighter carbon atoms because they require less energy to be incorporated into cells,” Yakymchuk said in the statement.

“Based on the increased amount of carbon 12 in this graphite, we concluded that the carbon atoms were once ancient life, most likely dead microorganisms such as cyanobacteria. “

The team also determined that the very presence of graphite not only indicated early life, but also allowed ruby ​​to exist.

It turns out that the graphite altered the chemistry of the surrounding rocks, which allowed the ruby ​​to grow. Without the graphite itself, Yakymchuk’s team say it would have been impossible for the rubies to have formed.

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