Publications by authors named "Robert H Rainbird"

6 Publications

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Author Correction: Early fungi from the Proterozoic era in Arctic Canada.

Nature 2019 Jul;571(7766):E11

Early Life Traces & Evolution-Astrobiology Laboratory, UR Astrobiology, Geology Department, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium.

An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1396-8DOI Listing
July 2019

Early fungi from the Proterozoic era in Arctic Canada.

Nature 2019 06 22;570(7760):232-235. Epub 2019 May 22.

Early Life Traces & Evolution-Astrobiology Laboratory, UR Astrobiology, Geology Department, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium.

Fungi are crucial components of modern ecosystems. They may have had an important role in the colonization of land by eukaryotes, and in the appearance and success of land plants and metazoans. Nevertheless, fossils that can unambiguously be identified as fungi are absent from the fossil record until the middle of the Palaeozoic era. Here we show, using morphological, ultrastructural and spectroscopic analyses, that multicellular organic-walled microfossils preserved in shale of the Grassy Bay Formation (Shaler Supergroup, Arctic Canada), which dates to approximately 1,010-890 million years ago, have a fungal affinity. These microfossils are more than half a billion years older than previously reported unambiguous occurrences of fungi, a date which is consistent with data from molecular clocks for the emergence of this clade. In extending the fossil record of the fungi, this finding also pushes back the minimum date for the appearance of eukaryotic crown group Opisthokonta, which comprises metazoans, fungi and their protist relatives.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1217-0DOI Listing
June 2019

Implications of selective predation on the macroevolution of eukaryotes: evidence from Arctic Canada.

Emerg Top Life Sci 2018 Sep;2(2):247-255

Department of Geology, UR Geology, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium.

Existing paleontological data indicate marked eukaryote diversification in the Neoproterozoic, ca. 800 Ma, driven by predation pressure and various other biotic and abiotic factors. Although the eukaryotic record remains less diverse before that time, molecular clock estimates and earliest crown-group affiliated microfossils suggest that the diversification may have originated during the Mesoproterozoic. Within new assemblages of organic-walled microfossils from the ca. 1150 to 900 Ma lower Shaler Supergroup of Arctic Canada, numerous specimens from various taxa display circular and ovoid perforations on their walls, interpreted as probable traces of selective protist predation, 150-400 million years before their first reported incidence in the Neoproterozoic. Selective predation is a more complex behavior than phagotrophy, because it requires sensing and selection of prey followed by controlled lysis of the prey wall. The ca. 800 Ma eukaryotic diversification may have been more gradual than previously thought, beginning in the late Mesoproterozoic, as indicated by recently described microfossil assemblages, in parallel with the evolution of selective eukaryovory and the spreading of eukaryotic photosynthesis in marine environments.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1042/ETLS20170153DOI Listing
September 2018

Tracking the rise of eukaryotes to ecological dominance with zinc isotopes.

Geobiology 2018 07 5;16(4):341-352. Epub 2018 Jun 5.

Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.

The biogeochemical cycling of zinc (Zn) is intimately coupled with organic carbon in the ocean. Based on an extensive new sedimentary Zn isotope record across Earth's history, we provide evidence for a fundamental shift in the marine Zn cycle ~800 million years ago. We discuss a wide range of potential drivers for this transition and propose that, within available constraints, a restructuring of marine ecosystems is the most parsimonious explanation for this shift. Using a global isotope mass balance approach, we show that a change in the organic Zn/C ratio is required to account for observed Zn isotope trends through time. Given the higher affinity of eukaryotes for Zn relative to prokaryotes, we suggest that a shift toward a more eukaryote-rich ecosystem could have provided a means of more efficiently sequestering organic-derived Zn. Despite the much earlier appearance of eukaryotes in the microfossil record (~1700 to 1600 million years ago), our data suggest a delayed rise to ecological prominence during the Neoproterozoic, consistent with the currently accepted organic biomarker records.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gbi.12289DOI Listing
July 2018

Morphometric convergence between Proterozoic and post-vegetation rivers.

Nat Commun 2017 05 26;8:15250. Epub 2017 May 26.

Department of Geosciences, University of Padua, 35131 Padua, Italy.

Proterozoic rivers flowed through barren landscapes, and lacked interactions with macroscopic organisms. It is widely held that, in the absence of vegetation, fluvial systems featured barely entrenched channels that promptly widened over floodplains during floods. This hypothesis has never been tested because of an enduring lack of Precambrian fluvial-channel morphometric data. Here we show, through remote sensing and outcrop sedimentology, that deep rivers were developed in the Proterozoic, and that morphometric parameters for large fluvial channels might have remained within a narrow range over almost 2 billion years. Our data set comprises fluvial-channel forms deposited a few tens to thousands of kilometres from their headwaters, likely the record of basin- to craton-scale systems. Large Proterozoic channel forms present width:thickness ranges matching those of Phanerozoic counterparts, suggesting closer parallels between their fluvial dynamics. This outcome may better inform analyses of extraterrestrial planetary surfaces and related comparisons with pre-vegetation Earth landscapes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms15250DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5458558PMC
May 2017

Earth history. Low mid-Proterozoic atmospheric oxygen levels and the delayed rise of animals.

Science 2014 Oct;346(6209):635-8

Department of Earth Sciences, University of California, Riverside, CA, USA.

The oxygenation of Earth's surface fundamentally altered global biogeochemical cycles and ultimately paved the way for the rise of metazoans at the end of the Proterozoic. However, current estimates for atmospheric oxygen (O2) levels during the billion years leading up to this time vary widely. On the basis of chromium (Cr) isotope data from a suite of Proterozoic sediments from China, Australia, and North America, interpreted in the context of data from similar depositional environments from Phanerozoic time, we find evidence for inhibited oxidation of Cr at Earth's surface in the mid-Proterozoic (1.8 to 0.8 billion years ago). These data suggest that atmospheric O2 levels were at most 0.1% of present atmospheric levels. Direct evidence for such low O2 concentrations in the Proterozoic helps explain the late emergence and diversification of metazoans.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1258410DOI Listing
October 2014