Paradigm shift in determining Neoproterozoic atmospheric oxygen

Nigel J. F. Blamey, Uwe Brand, John Parnell, Natalie Spear, Christophe Lécuyer, Kathleen Benison, Fanwei Meng, Pei Ni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


We present a new and innovative way of determining the oxygen level of Earth's past atmosphere by directly measuring inclusion gases trapped in halite. After intensive screening using multiple depositional, textural/fabric and geochemical parameters, tectonically undisturbed cumulate, chevron, and cornet halite inclusions may retain atmospheric gas during crystallization from shallow saline, lagoonal and/or saltpan brine. These are the first measurements of inclusion gas for the Neoproterozoic obtained from 815±15 m.y. old Browne Formation chevron halite of the Officer Basin, southwest Australia. The thirty-one gas measurements afford us a direct glimpse of the composition of the mid-late Neoproterozoic atmosphere and register an oxygen content of 10.9±1.4 %. The measured pO2 puts oxygenation of Earth's paleoatmosphere about 100 to 200 million years ahead of current models and proxy studies. It also puts oxygenation of the Neoproterozoic atmosphere in agreement with time of diversification of eukaryotes and in advance of the emergence of marine animal life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)651-654
Number of pages4
Issue number8
Early online date31 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016


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