Life helps make almost half of all minerals on Earth

Life helps make almost half of all minerals on Earth

Joanna Thompson writes:

The impact of Earth’s geology on life is easy to see, with organisms adapting to environments as different as deserts, mountains, forests and oceans. The full impact of life on geology, however, can be easy to miss.

A comprehensive new survey of our planet’s minerals now corrects that omission. Among its findings is evidence that about half of all mineral diversity is the direct or indirect result of living things and their byproducts. It’s a discovery that could provide valuable insights to scientists piecing together Earth’s complex geological history — and also to those searching for evidence of life beyond this world.

In a pair of papers published today in American Mineralogist, researchers Robert Hazen, Shaunna Morrison and their collaborators outline a new taxonomic system for classifying minerals, one that places importance on precisely how minerals form, not just how they look. In so doing, their system acknowledges how Earth’s geological development and the evolution of life influence each other. [Continue reading…]

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