FRONT PAGES: Some Of The Oldest Rubies In The World Are Linked To Early Life

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dWeb.News Article from Daniel Webster dWeb.News

. Newswise — Researchers from the University of Waterloo discovered that carbon residue was once part of ancient life and was contained within a 2.5 billion year-old ruby.

Chris Yakymchuk from Waterloo’s Earth and Environmental Sciences department set out to investigate the geology of rubies in order to better understand how they form. The team discovered a ruby sample containing graphite during their research in Greenland. This country is home to the oldest known rubies deposits in the world. This carbon is an evidence of the existence of early life.

” This ruby contains graphite that is truly unique. Yakymchuk says that this is the first time that we have seen evidence of ancient life in ruby bearing rocks. “The presence of graphite also gives us more clues to determine how rubies formed at this location, something that is impossible to do directly based on a ruby’s colour and chemical composition.”

The presence of the graphite allowed the researchers to analyze a property called isotopic composition of the carbon atoms, which measures the relative amounts of different carbon atoms. More than 98 percent of all carbonatoms have a 12atomic mass unit. However, a few heavier carbon atoms have a 13 and 14atomic mass units.

“Living material prefers lighter carbon atoms, as they require less energy to integrate into cells,” stated Yakymchuk. “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 graphite is found in rocks older than 2.5 billion years ago, a time on the planet when oxygen was not abundant in the atmosphere, and life existed only in microorganisms and algae films.

The team of Yakymchuk discovered that graphite was not only necessary to allow this gem to exist, but also links it to ancient life. The graphite created favorable conditions for the growth of rubies by altering the chemistry in the rocks. The models of the team showed that it was impossible to make rubies at this location without graphite.

The study Corundum growth (ruby) during the final assembly at the Archean North Atlantic Craton in southern West Greenland , has been published in Ore Geoology Reviews. In June, Chemical Geology published a companion study, The corundum conundrum. It examined the fluid compositions that are involved in ruby formation in metamorphic mixtures of ultramafic rocks and aluminous stones ,.

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