Select one of the first multicellu

Photo: Micrograph of the fossil Arctacellularia tetragonala, one of the first unambiguous fossils of a photosynthetic eukaryote.
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Credit: MC Sforna / University of Liege

Researchers from the Laboratory of Early Life and Evolution Tracing (Astrobiology/Faculty of Sciences) at the University of Liège Ole have discovered On site Evidence for chlorophyll remains in billion-year-old multicellular algae microfossils preserved in stony rocks from the Congo Basin. This discovery, which is the subject of research published in the journal Nature Communications, made it possible to unequivocally identify one of the first photosynthetic eukaryotic organisms in the fossil record. This research opens new avenues in studying the diversity of eukaryotes within early ecosystems.

The emergence of photosynthesis is an essential step in the evolution of eukaryotes and thus in life, as it has profoundly modified terrestrial ecosystems. Although molecular clocks (a technique that biologists use to date the time distance between two species of their common ancestor) predict this appearance during the Proterozoic (Precambrian III from -2.5 billion to -541 million years ago), scientists have found very little that Unmistakable microfossils of photosynthetic eukaryotes. Detection of metabolites On site In individual microfossils is the key to the direct determination of their metabolic processes, but so far it has remained elusive.

A new scientific study conducted on the fossils of the Congo Basin by Marie-Catherine Svorna, a postdoctoral researcher in the Laboratory of Early Life Archeology (ASTROBILOGY Research Unit/Faculty of Science) at ULiège University, under the direction of Professor Emmanuel Javaaux, has presented a new study. A methodology using fluorescence and synchrotron X-ray absorption to determine the photometabolic (relating to light-derived organisms) of the first eukaryotes in the fossil record. Fossils preserved as carbonaceous pressure in shale from the Congo Basin in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

With collaborators from the Australian National University (Australia), Geological Map Commission of the World (France), Swiss Light Source (Switzerland), Synchrotron Soleil (France), University of Lille (France), UR FOCUS (Liege) and the Royal Museum of Central Africa (Belgium) Researchers from the University of Liege identify nickel-preserved geoporphyrins On site In multicellular eukaryotes that are about 1 billion years old: Arctacellularia tetragonala. “We identified these parts as chlorophyll derivatives, indicating that Arctacellularia tetragonala was a photosynthetic eukaryote, one of the first unambiguous algae,“This new methodology, applicable to billion-year-old ultra-mature rocks, provides a new approach to understanding the evolution of eukaryotic phototrophic during the Precambrian and the diversification of primary producers in early ecosystems.”

Scientific reference

Remove Mary Catherine1, Lauren Corentin C. 1Demoulin Catherine F. 1Francois Camille1,2Cornette Johan1, Lara Yannick c. 1Gerlimond Daniel3, Ferreira Sanchez Dario3Mujube Qedh4Andrea Somogi4, Addad Ahmed5Fadel Alexander5Brother Philip6Daniel7, Brocks Jochen J. 8& Javaux Emmanuelle J. 1, Intracellular bound chlorophyll residue identifies Gyr-old fossils as eukaryotic algae, Nature Communications, doi 10.1038/s41467-021-27810-7

1Traces of Early Life and Evolution – Astrobiology, Astrobiology, University of Uruguay, University of Liège, Liege, Belgium

² Commission for the Geological Mapping of the World, Paris, France

3Paul Scherer Institute, Swiss Light Source, CH-5232 Villigen PSI, Switzerland

4Synchrotron Soleil, Saint-Aubin – BP 48, France

5Materials and Transformations Unit (UMR CNRS 8207), University of Lille 1 – Sciences and Technologies, Villeneuve d’Ascq, France

6Functional and Evolutionary Morphology, Department of Biology, Ecology and Evolution, UR FOCUS, and Center for Applied Research and Education in Microscopy (CAREM-ULiege), University of Liege, Liege, Belgium

7Geodynamics and Mineral Resources Service, Royal Museum of Central Africa, Belgium

8School of Earth Sciences Research, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

Funding Sources: Marie-Curie Cofund Program at the University of Liege. FNRS CR PROMES project, FRS-FNRS-FWO EOS ET-Home, ERC Stg ELiTE, BELSPO BRAIN PORTAL project and CALYPSO PLUS (Synchrotron Soleil) program.


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