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The Isotopic Imprint of Life on an Evolving Planet

Authors
  • Lloyd, M. K.1, 2
  • McClelland, H. L. O.3, 4
  • Antler, G.5
  • Bradley, A. S.6
  • Halevy, I.3
  • Junium, C. K.7
  • Wankel, S. D.8
  • Zerkle, A. L.9
  • 1 University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA , Berkeley (United States)
  • 2 The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA , University Park (United States)
  • 3 Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel , Rehovot (Israel)
  • 4 University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC, Australia , Parkville (Australia)
  • 5 Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel , Beer Sheva (Israel)
  • 6 Washington University in St Louis, St Louis, MO, USA , St Louis (United States)
  • 7 Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, USA , Syracuse (United States)
  • 8 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA , Woods Hole (United States)
  • 9 University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK , St Andrews (United Kingdom)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Space Science Reviews
Publisher
Springer-Verlag
Publication Date
Oct 06, 2020
Volume
216
Issue
7
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s11214-020-00730-6
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
License
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Abstract

Stable isotope compositions of biologically cycled elements encode information about the interaction between life and environment. On Earth, geochemical biomarkers have been used to probe the extent, nature, and activity of modern and ancient organisms. However, extracting biological information from stable isotopic compositions requires untangling the interconnected nature of the Earth’s biogeochemical system, and must be viewed through the lens of evolving metabolisms on an evolving planet. In this chapter, we provide an introduction to isotope geobiology and to the geobiological history of Earth. We discuss the isotope biogeochemistry of the biologically essential elements carbon, nitrogen and sulfur, and we summarize their distribution on the modern Earth as an interconnected network of isotopically fractionated reservoirs with contrasting residence times. We show how this framework can be used to explore the evolution of life and environments on the ancient Earth, which is our closest accessible analogue for an extraterrestrial planet.

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