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Bulk and grain-scale minor sulfur isotope data reveal complexities in the dynamics of Earth’s oxygenationThe disappearance of mass-independent sulfur isotope fractionation (S-MIF) within the c. 2.3-billion-year-old (Ga) Rooihoogte Formation has been heralded as a chemostratigraphic marker of permanent atmospheric oxygenation. Reports of younger S-MIF, however, question this narrative, leaving significant uncertainties surrounding the timing, tempo, and trajectory of Earth’s oxygenation. Leveraging a new bulk quadruple S-isotope record, we return to the South African Transvaal Basin in search of support for supposed oscillations in atmospheric oxygen beyond 2.3 Ga. Here, as expected, within the Rooihoogte Formation, our data capture a collapse in Δ 3× S values and a shift from Archean-like Δ 36 S/Δ 33 S slopes to their mass-dependent counterparts. Importantly, the interrogation of a Δ 33 S-exotic grain reveals extreme spatial variability, whereby atypically large Δ 33 S values are separated from more typical Paleoproterozoic values by a subtle grain-housed siderophile-enriched band. This isotopic juxtaposition signals the coexistence of two sulfur pools that were able to escape diagenetic homogenization. These large Δ 33 S values require an active photochemical sulfur source, fingerprinting atmospheric S-MIF production after its documented cessation elsewhere at ∼2.4 Ga. By contrast, the Δ 33 S monotony observed in overlying Timeball Hill Formation, with muted Δ 33 S values (<0.3‰)more »Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 29, 2023
Rising oceanic and atmospheric oxygen levels through time have been crucial to enhanced habitability of surface Earth environments. Few redox proxies can track secular variations in dissolved oxygen concentrations ([O2]) around threshold levels for metazoan survival in the upper ocean. We present an extensive compilation of iodine to calcium ratios (I/Ca) in marine carbonates. Our record supports a major rise in atmospheric pO2 at ~400 million years ago (Ma), and reveals a step-change in the oxygenation of the upper ocean to relatively sustainable near-modern conditions at ~200 Ma. An Earth system model demonstrates that a shift in organic matter remineralization to greater depths, which may have been due to increasing size and biomineralization of eukaryotic plankton, likely drove the I/Ca signals at ~200 Ma