GEOL 107: Important terms and definitions

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Principle of superposition

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167 Terms

1

Principle of superposition

Oldest rocks are at the bottom (deposited first) and youngest are at the top (deposited last)

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Law of Original Horizontality

Rock strata are deposited in horizontal layers that are parallel with each other

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Law of Original Continuity

Rock strata are deposited in layers that are continuous over lateral distance

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Geological Time Scale

Subdivision of geologic time using divisions based on their fossil content (biostratigraphy), applicable worldwide

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Biota of Cenozoic era

  • Acme of mammals, birds, and flowering plants

  • Hominids appear late in this era

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Biota of Mesozoic era

  • Age of dinosaurs

  • Ammonites, ichthyosaurs and pleisiosaurs in the seas

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Biota of Paleozoic era

  • Age of trilobites, brachiopods and other archaic invertebrates in the seas

  • First land plants, amphibians and reptiles occur late in this era

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Advantage of absolute dating

Radioactive decay provides the best indication of absolute age

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Can be dated with C-14 dating

organic fossils <60,000 years old (not useful for older fossils)

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Can be dated with U/Pb dating of zircons

Fossils that are older than 60,000 years old are commonly dated indirectly by dating radioactive minerals in igneous rocks above and below the fossil

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Theory proposed by Alfred Wegener in 1912

Continental Drift

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Definition of plate tectonics

  1. Continents are moving (at speeds that can be measured by satellites)

  2. Oceans are some of the youngest features on this planet, are constantly being created and destroyed

  3. Mountains are the records of ancient collisions of plates

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Evidence for continental drift as proposed by Wegener

  1. ‘Fit’ of the continents, especially east South America and west Africa

  2. Distributions of Late Paleozoic and Early Mesozoic fossils through South America, Africa, India, Antarctica, and Australia suggesting that they were combined into the megacontinent Gondwana

  3. Consistent ice-flow directions away from the center of Gondwana

  4. Continuation of mountain belts across present ocean basins

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New evidence for continental drift (1960s)

  1. Mid-ocean ridge down the center of the Atlantic also perfectly matches the ‘fit’ of the

    continents

  2. No ocean crust older than about 180 Ma (Jurassic) anywhere on Earth. Ocean crust gets progressively older away from the mid-ocean ridge

  3. New field of paleomagnetics (not discussed in this course) used magnetic directions recorded in rocks to determine the latitude at which the rocks were formed, showing that continents are and have been moving

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Last 3 supercontinents on Earth in the last billion years (in order)

Nuna (~2000 Ma), Rodinia (1200-800Ma) and Pangea (300-200Ma, Carboniferous - Triassic)

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3 stages of continent breakup

  1. Rift valley

  2. Linear sea

  3. Ocean

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DNA

Genetic information of an individual, coded as a series of nucleotides

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Gene pool

Total amount of genetic information coded on all the individuals in the population

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Effect of sexual reproduction on gene pool

Constantly reshuffle the gene pool into different individuals

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Mutation

Change in one or more nucleotides on the DNA

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Natural selection

The proportion of a beneficial mutation in a population can be enhanced, causes “survival of the fittest” (competition for food, living space and mates + avoidance of predators)

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Directionality of natural selection

Enhances ‘beneficial’ genes and reduces or eliminates ‘harmful’ ones in a population

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Convergence (aka convergent evolution)

Similar life habit in a similar environment leads to the evolution of similar morphology among organisms that are completely unrelated

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Analogous structures

Structures that are a result of convergent evolution (Example is wings: been evolved separately by insects, birds and bats)

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Coevolution

Organisms evolve as a response to changes in their environment, but also in response to evolutionary changes in other organisms

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“Arms race” between predator and prey

  • Carnivore vs prey animals (i.e speed, power, or complex hunting strategies for predator, prey may evolve increased speed, camouflage, armour, poisons and other noxious deterrents etc.)

  • Herbivores vs plants (adaptations by the plant may include spines or poisons)

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Mutualism

Relationship between two species that is beneficial to both (i.e co-evolution of flowering plants and animals)

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Red Queen Effect (from Van Valen, Evolutionary Theory, 1973)

Any evolutionary advance by one species forces the rapid evolution of all species that are dependent on it. There is no staus quo in evolution; all species must constantly evolve or they will go extinct

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Court Jester Effect (from Barnosky, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 2001)

Life is also affected by major physical perturbations in the Earth System (e.g., climate change, widespread volcanism, large meteorite impacts), these suddenly change the rules on the biotic playing field and can result in an accelerated evolutionary response

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Number of living species

Approximately 2 million

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Number of living animal species

Approximately 1,000,000

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Phylogeny

Biological classification of organisms must reflect evolutionary history

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Prokaryotes

Unicellular, lack a cell nucleus or organelles (e.g. plastids, mitochondria)

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Eukaryotes

Unicellular or multicellular, DNA in a nucleus, contain organelles

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3 domains of life

  1. Bacteria

  2. Archaea

  3. Eukarya

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Bacteria

Mostly “normal” prokaryotes

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Archaea

Mostly “extremophile” prokaryotes

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Eukarya

Includes all single and multi-celled eukaryotes

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Levels of Linnean classification (largest to smallest)

  1. Kingdom

  2. Phylum

  3. Class

  4. Order

  5. Family

  6. Genus

  7. Species

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Cladistics

Investigation of morphology to recognize clades

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Clade

A monophyletic group (common ancestor and all its descendents)

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Polyphyletic

more than one ancestor (e.g. “corals” which evolved separately from different anemone groups)

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Paraphyletic

Common ancestor but does not include all descendants (e.g. “reptiles” have a single common ancestor but do not include birds or mammals which are also their descendants)

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Basal morphological characters

Relating to original ancestoral features, aka pleisiomorphies

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Derived morphological characters

First appear in the clade, aka apomorphies

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Analogous/convergent morphological characters

Similar features in unrelated organisms

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Cladogram

Shows the order of evolutionary appearance of derived characters

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3 Strengths of cladistics

  1. Rigorous and testable

  2. Can be used at almost any level of taxonomy

  3. Can include fossil and living species in the same cladogram

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Phylogenetics (aka molecular phylogeny)

Measures degree of substitution in DNA, RNA or proteins (directly measures genetic differences!)

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Molecular clocks (result of phylogenetics)

Provide a "ruler" to measure the time of origin of different clades

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3 Strengths and 1 weakness of molecular phylogeny

Strengths:

  1. Rigorous and testable

  2. Can be used at any level of taxonomy (from kingdoms to populations within the same species)

  3. Directly measures genetic differences

Weakness:

  1. With rare exceptions (e.g. fossils in amber) can only be used on modern organisms

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Fossils

The remains of ancient organisms (can include the actual remains themselves (e.g. shells and bones) or features made by them (e.g. footprints and burrows))

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5 categories of fossils

  1. Bones (vertebrates)

  2. Shells (invertebrates)

  3. Cellulose (plants)

  4. Trace fossils

  5. Soft tissue

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Taphonomy

Conditions of fossilization

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Composition of bone fossils

Phosphate (more resistant to weathering)

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Formation of complete skeleton fossils

Animal must be buried rapidly during or immediately after death

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Composition of shell fossils

Carbonate (calcite or aragonite), sometimes composed of silica or even phosphate

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Molds

Impressions of shell fossils left in rock

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Composition of cellulose fossils

Complex sugar (cellulose)

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How petrified wood forms

Wood pores are filled with silica (quartz)

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Carbonization

Cellulose buried more than a few hundred metres deep turns into coal due to heat and pressure

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Types of trace fossils

Includes tracks, trails, burrows, and borings of animals (vertebrates and invertebrates)

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Important things trace fossils tell us

  • Behaviour of the animal that made them

  • What type of animal made them

  • Speed the animal was travelling at the time

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What usually happens to soft tissue after death

Decomposes soon after death and is not preserved as a fossil

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Fossil Lagerstätten

Deposits of fossils with preserved soft tissues

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Ways that fossil Lagerstätten can be made

  • Freezing in ice

  • Mummification

  • Petrification in amber

  • Carbonization

  • Mineralization

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Late Heavy Bombardment

A second wave of major impacts that would have sterilized the upper oceans

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Faint Young Sun

Sun only 75% as bright as it is today during the Early Archaean

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Early Archaean atmosphere composition

Volcanic atmosphere (H2O, CO2, SO2, N2) with absolutely no free oxygen!

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Appearance of Archean Earth

Many volcanic islands but no true continents

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3 Steps in the synthesis of life

  1. Formation of Simple Organic Molecules (Amino Acids, Nucleotides, Sugars)

  2. Combination of Simple Organic Molecules into Complex Organic Molecules (DNA,

    RNA, Proteins)

  3. Initiation of Replication (Reproduction)

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Why DNA cannot have been the first complex organic molecule synthesized

Its formation requires proteins

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Miller-Urey Experiment

Showed that volcanic gases + spark → all amino acids essential to life, and that this reaction always works if anoxic; reaction never works if any oxygen is present

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2 competing models for early life

  1. proteinworld

  2. RNA-world

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Why RNA-world is favoured

RNA can both replicate itself (like DNA) and act as a catalyst in reactions (like proteins)

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“Spiegelman Monster” experiment

Showed that self-replicating living systems can consist of little more than a short strand of RNA

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Eigen experiment

Same as “Spiegelman Monster” experiment but got the same results without providing a living organism as a seed

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Where life is descended from

All life on Earth appears to have descended from a single common ancestor

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How comets and meteorites may have contributed to life

By striking the Earth and (maybe!) contributing large amounts of these fundamental building blocks of life

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Where life probably started

Extremophiles (Archaea) in hydrothermal systems (e.g. mid-ocean ridges, vents, and caldera)

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The 2 locations of Earth’s oldest definite fossils

  1. Pilbara Craton of Western Australia (the most famous is Warrawoona at 3.5 Ga)

  2. Barberton in South Africa (3.4 Ga)

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Organic microfossils

Filaments and spheres of carbon that reflect the cell walls of unicellular organisms

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Specific fossils found at Warrawoona (3.5 Ga) in the Pilbara craton of Western Australia

  1. Oldest-known organic microfossils (3.5 Ga)

  2. Filamentous microfossils 3.25 Ga from nearby Sulphur Springs

  3. Oldest definite stromatolites (3.5 Ga)

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Specific fossils found at Barberton

  1. Ancient spherical microfossils (3.4 Ga)

  2. Microbial mats that still contain carbon (3.2 Ga rocks)

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Formation of both the oldest Warrawoona and the Sulphur Springs microfossils

Formed in volcanic cauldera

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Stromatolites

Layers of sediment that reflect the presence of mats of unicellular organisms (the actual micro-organisms that made the layers are seldom preserved), flat, conical, or dome-shaped in different environments, range in size (from <1 cm to >10 m wide)

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When most stromatolites formed

Precambrian time, rare in the Archean due to lack of continents and associated shallow-water environments, but abundant through the Proterozoic

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When continents formed

Slowly formed throughout the Archaean

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Age of Stromatolites

Proterozoic (because of shallow seas)

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Composition of Archean and Early Proterozoic oceans

  • Full of dissolved iron

  • Oceans and atmosphere prior to 2.4 Ga contained essentially no free oxygen

  • Abundant CO2 in the atmosphere (explains faint young sun)

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How early prokaryotes metabolized

Chemical pathways utilizing nitrate, sulphate, or carbon dioxide for energy (None of these utilize or affect oxygen levels); most were anaerobic, a few amphiaerobic

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Amphiaerobic

Used O2 if available, otherwise use anaerobic pathways

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Anaerobic

Cannot tolerate oxygen

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Cyanobacteria metabolism

Use photosynthesis for metabolism

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Photosynthesis chemical equation

knowt flashcard image
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3 main stages in the oxygenation of the Earth

  1. Iron Ocean (prior to 1.8 Ga)

  2. Canfield Ocean (1.8 – 0.6 Ga)

  3. Modern Ocean (after 0.6 Ga)

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Iron Ocean (prior to 1.8 Ga)

No free oxygen in the atmosphere or oceans until about 2.4 Ga

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Canfield Ocean (1.8 – 0.6 Ga)

Atmosphere and shallow oceans contain limited free oxygen while deep oceans contain abundant H2S, but no free oxygen

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Great Oxidation Event (1.8-2.4 Ga)

Transition from an oxygen-free world to one with limited oxygen in the atmosphere and shallow seas

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Modern Ocean (after 0.6 Ga)

Atmosphere, shallow ocean, and deep ocean all oxygenated

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