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X-ray microtomography as a tool for investigating the petrological context of Precambrian cellular remains

By
Keyron Hickman-Lewis
Keyron Hickman-Lewis
St Edmund Hall, Queens Lane, Oxford OX1 4AR, UKDepartment of Earth Sciences, The University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3AN, UKPresent address: CNRS Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire, Rue Charles Sadron, 45071 Orléans, France
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Russell J. Garwood
Russell J. Garwood
School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UKDepartment of Earth Sciences, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK
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Philip J. Withers
Philip J. Withers
School of Materials, The University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK
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David Wacey
David Wacey
School of Earth Sciences, Life Sciences Building, University of Bristol, 24 Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TH, UKCentre for Microscopy Characterisation and Analysis, and Centre of Excellence for Core to Crust Fluid Systems, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Perth, WA 6009, Australia
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Published:
January 01, 2017

Abstract

A wide spectrum of tomographic techniques now exists for studying palaeontological specimens, but the suitability of these methods for assessing Earth’s oldest prokaryotic life has not been comprehensively investigated. We evaluated the ability of X-ray computed tomography – specifically X-ray microtomography – to reveal the morphology and petrological context of Precambrian microfossils, pseudofossils and biosedimentary structures, all of which are important in the origin and early evolution of life of Earth. The materials tested came from the Pilbara Craton of Western Australia (the 3.49 Ga Dresser Formation, the 3.46 Ga Apex chert and the 3.43 Ga Strelley Pool Formation) and the 1.88 Ga Gunflint Formation of Ontario, Canada. These units chart key developments in palaeobiology. The oldest formations contain profoundly controversial microfossil-like objects and microbially-induced sedimentary structures, whereas definitive prokaryotes are found in the youngest formations. We demonstrate that the imaging of individual microfossils and pseudofossils currently lies at the limits of the capabilities of laboratory-based X-ray microtomography and requires beneficial taphonomy. However, microtomography does provide a good overview of their petrological context at flexible spatial scales, although the quality of the data obtained from mesoscopic microbially-induced sedimentary structures and stromatolites depends largely on their style of preservation.

Supplementary material: A zipped Drishti volume for all CT scans, a 0.7z split zip file of one Drishti volume and a HDMI supplementary movie showing digital visualizations for all of the scans are available at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.58161

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Geological Society

Earth System Evolution and Early Life: A Celebration of the Work of Martin Brasier

A. T. Brasier
A. T. Brasier
University of Aberdeen, UK
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D. Mcilroy
D. Mcilroy
Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada
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N. McLoughlin
N. McLoughlin
Rhodes University, South Africa
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Geological Society of London
Volume
448
ISBN electronic:
9781786202932
Publication date:
January 01, 2017

GeoRef

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