Reduction spots in the Mesoproterozoic age: implications for life in the early terrestrial record

Samuel C. Spinks, John Parnell, Stephen A. Bowden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Reduction spots are common within continental red beds in the geological record. The method of formation of reduction spots is a subject of debate, but they are thought to be the result of the reducing nature of microbial life present in the sediment during burial, which caused localized reduction in sediment that was otherwise oxidized during diagenesis. Reduction spots often have dark concretionary cores commonly enriched in elements such as vanadium and uranium. This enrichment is also believed to be associated with the microbial reduction of the sediment. Isotopic data from sulphides present in the cores of analogue Triassic reduction spots are consistent with a potential microbial formation mechanism.

Here we report the presence of reduction spots with vanadium-rich mica (roscoelite) - enriched cores within a terrestrial red bed sequence of the Mesoproterozoic age. These findings may be a possible indicator of life within the terrestrial geological record during the Mesoproterozoic age, a time when such evidence is otherwise very rare. These findings suggest that life had not only colonized terrestrial environments during the Mesoproterozoic age, but had established a deep biosphere in the sediment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-216
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Astrobiology
Issue number4
Early online date19 Aug 2010
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010


  • deep biosphere
  • Mesoproterozoic age
  • microbial sulphate reduction
  • reduction spots
  • red beds
  • sulfate reduction
  • sulfur-isotope
  • atmospheric oxygen
  • pyrite
  • iron
  • sandstone
  • migration
  • oxidation
  • bacterial
  • insights


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