Occurrence of Tourmaline in Metasedimentary Rocks of the Isua Supracrustal Belt, Greenland: Implications for Ribose Stabilization in Hadean Marine Sediments
Origins of life and evolution of the biosphere : the journal of the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life | 4 Dec 2015
S Mishima, Y Ohtomo and T Kakegawa
Abiotic formation of RNA was important for the emergence of terrestrial life, but the acknowledged difficulties of generating and stabilizing ribose have often raised questions regarding how the first RNA might have formed. Previous researchers have proposed that borate could have stabilized ribose; however, the availability of borate on the early Earth has been the subject of intense debate. In order to examine whether borate was available on the early Earth, this study examined metasedimentary rocks from the Isua Supracrustal Belt. Garnet, biotite, and quartz comprise the major constituents of the examined rocks. Field relationships and the chemical compositions of the examined rocks suggest sedimentary origin. The present study found that garnet crystals contain a number of inclusions of tourmaline (a type of borosilicate mineral). All tourmaline crystals are Fe-rich and categorized as schorl. Both garnet and tourmaline often contain graphite inclusions and this close association of tourmaline with garnet and graphite has not been recognized previously. Garnet-biotite and graphite geothermometers suggest that the tourmaline in garnet experienced peak metamorphic conditions (~500 °C and 5 kbar). The mineralogical characteristics of the tourmaline and the whole rock composition indicate that the tourmaline formed authigenically in the sediment during diagenesis and/or early metamorphism. Clay minerals in modern sediments have the capability to adsorb and concentrate borate, which could lead to boron enrichment during diagenesis, followed by tourmaline formation under metamorphic conditions. Clay minerals, deposited on the early Archean seafloor, were the precursors of the garnet and biotite in the examined samples. The studied tourmaline crystals were most likely formed in the same way as modern tourmaline in marine sediments. Therefore, boron enrichment by clays must have been possible even during the early Archean. Thus, similar enrichment could have been possible during the Hadean, providing a stabilization agent for ribose.
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