Relationship between geology and biology

relationship between geology and biology

Start studying geology + biology the relationship between the Earth and living organisms. Learn vocabulary, terms, and more with flashcards, games, and other . Geology-Biology involves study of the interactions of the Earth and its hydrosphere and atmosphere with the great diversity of life forms, and how they have. Geology is a relatively new science, and because of this, the other major branches of physical science including physics, chemistry, and biology, have heavily influenced how we define geologic principles and describe geologic processes. Most geology and geoscience students have.

Although humans have strongly influenced the divergence in dog skull morphology, there are also natural examples of morphological flexibility. During a severe drought in the 's in the Galapagos Islands, finches with strong beaks were highly selected for because they could eat the only food available - hard seeds Gibbs and Grant, When conditions returned to normal, smaller birds were again favored and the population evolved in response within a few years Gibbs and Grant, Organisms also respond to external stimuli such as the presence of predators.

Barnacle shells change shape when grazing snails are present Lively, The origin of morphological changes in the absence of genetic mutation is one of the most intriguing research problems facing studies of metazoan evolution. The complexities of gene activation allow the survival of complex organisms that are highly dependent on their environment.

Single-celled bacteria and archaea also show gene activation in response to external stimuli. Many can switch metabolic processes based on the chemistry of their local environment. However, because they are single celled organisms, they do not have the complex genetic controls for cell differentiation. This leads to some of the most interesting questions in evolution: Parts of these questions can be addressed through genetic studies of extant organisms.

Others, will require data from the geological record. Organic biomarkers may help. Life consists of highly specialized chemical reactions catalyzed by specialized molecules. These molecules can be unique to specific organisms. Biomarkers identified in the rock record can be used to infer the presence of the organisms.

One of the most exciting results to date is the isolation of steranes from 2. Did these eukaryotes have the genetic capabilities for cell differentiation? If so, why did it take 2 billion years for multicellular fossils to appear in the rock record? If not, when did they evolve the genetic controls for cell specialization?

One billion years later, at about 1. These simple fossils provide the opportunity to study early eukaryotic ecology, and to Javaux et al. During the next billion years, algal diversity increased, but little is known about animal evolution.

The oldest probable animals are embryos that have been identified in Ma phosphorites from China Xiao and Knoll, Few animal embryos have been identified from the rock record, in part because they tend not to be preserved and in part because they are difficult to identify.

relationship between geology and biology

However, Xiao and Knoll's work on several-celled fossils from approximately Ma phosphorites provided sophisticated arguments for an animal origin for half-millimeter phosphatic spheres Xiao and Knoll, By using cell wall rheology, the geometry of early cell division, and the structure of cell clumps, they have documented the presence of both algal and animal embryos.

Although the embryos are not distinctive enough to be identified with specific adult forms, some show similar characteristics to the embryonic stages of extant sponges, cnidarians, and bilaterians Xiao and Knoll, Additional research is likely to provide more specimens and better insights into the evolution of early animals.

Despite the advances in both biology and geology sincewe are still left with the question that Darwin felt was the biggest problem with the theory of evolution by natural selection: How and why did complex multicellular organisms suddenly appear near the base of Cambrian strata?

The relationship between biology and geology - Philosophy Discussion Forums

We now know that there was a very long history of evolution during Precambrian time, but we are still very far from knowing how the transition from single-celled life to multi-celled life evolved and what processes promoted it. One missing element in understanding this transition is our lack of appreciation for how life has affected Earth.

Multi-celled life requires O2 as an energy source, and O2 is produced almost exclusively through photosynthesis. Biological influences on Earth's atmosphere and surface made large life possible. Life controls Earth's climate and surface chemistry. Weathering is substantially enhanced by land plants. Life is obviously a major component of the carbon cycle. Biological processes regulate Earth's surface temperature through greenhouse gas cycling.

Geology-Biology < Brown University

For example, during Archean time, rapid biogenic methane production may have been essential for providing enough greenhouse warming to prevent Earth's oceans from freezing Kasting et al. Life's largest influence, however, was changing the oxidation state of Earth's surface. The production of enough O2 to oxidize Earth's oceans and atmosphere resulted in the most profound environmental change in Earth's history.

The presence of O2 changed global cycles of iron and other redox metals, dramatically increasing weathering rates and changing weathering products. At mid-ocean ridges, hydrothermal convection of oxidized rather than reduced sea water into sea floor basalts changed the reactions occurring in the shallow oceanic crust.

In addition, the reoxidation of hydrothermal water on returning to the oceans leads to complex deposits of oxides, sulfides, and sulfates which are densely colonized by bacteria. These mineral assemblages are different than those predicted from sea floor alteration with anoxic sea water.

Deposition of organic carbon, carbonate, and silica from pelagic organisms increases the biological influence on oceanic crust composition. When this crust is subducted, it carries a biological fingerprint into the mantle.

For example, diamonds from the upper mantle contain carbon isotopic signatures indicative of subducted organic carbon Kirkley et al. We have yet to determine how substantially life has affected the bulk chemistry and dynamics of Earth's deep interior; some have proposed that the influences are substantial Nisbet and Sleep, It is clear, however, that biological influences on weathering and erosion affect some tectonic processes such as rates of mountain uplift and basin subsidence by altering denudation rates.


To the extent that these rates influence deeper processes, one can argue that on Earth, all geology is influenced by life. We are on the verge of substantial advances in understanding how pervasively life has affected Earth. And we are on the verge of understanding how Earth has affected life. By integrating the best of biology and geology, we can continue to make progress in answering the questions where are we and how did we get here?

relationship between geology and biology

Along the way, we will increase our understanding and appreciation of the deep connections between life and Earth. Having worked in Joe Kirschvink's lab at Caltech as an undergraduate, Dawn Sumner should have left with a rich understanding of the importance of biology to geology. However, she started graduate school with John Grotzinger at MIT under the impression that chemistry and thermodynamics were the critical things for understanding early Earth.

Relative Dating of Rock Layers

Luckily, Dawn quickly zeroed in on a suite of Archean carbonates dominated by cements -- and microbial mats. Her dad, a physicist, persistently asked her the irritating question, "Why did this crystal form here instead of there? The act of trying to deny that it was important provided insights into the role of biology in controlling local geochemistry.

The mats influenced, if not determined, the sites of calcite nucleation, and the sites of nucleation depended on mat geometry Sumner, Dawn finished her Ph. Since then, she has been led down an exciting path into the worlds of microbiology, metabolism, and biogeochemistry at the micron scale by her own and her students' questions.

Dawn is still firmly rooted in geology and is grateful to her colleagues in the Geology Department at UCDavis who provide the natural selection that promotes the evolution of good ideas. There are plenty of other explanations.

relationship between geology and biology

Migration is the first that comes to mind. That's not another explantion! It just shifts the question of the origin of life to a different location! Yes, it's perfectly possible that the elements of life, or even simple life forms, came to Earth on meteors or whatever. But then you have to admit that at some point in the past those meteors did not exist, just as at some point in the past the Earth did not exist.

So where did the life on the meteors come from? If you think that life could not possibly have developed from non-living matter then you really do only have two options: It has existed forever. It was created ex nihilo. Maybe by a Deity. No, we don't know.

But we should regard it as highly unlikely that the basic laws of biology were radically different in the past. I agree that it seems probable that the physics of the universe operated the same in the past as it does now.

The evidence for that is such things as the formation of stars. That doesn't mean that life has always existed. If you don't believe that life has always existed, then you believe that at some point in the past there was no life. Therefore there were no "laws of biology". There were laws of physics, on which the laws of biology rest. Do you think that the laws of biology do not rest on the laws of chemistry and physics?

We should stick with the basic premise that life only comes from other life, and see where that takes us in our search for the origin of life on Earth.

You're free to stick with that premise. The only two possible conclusions are the ones that I listed above. The only place it takes us with regard to life on Earth is that it was carried here from elewhere. But, as I said, that just shifts the question of the origin of life to elsewhere. Sure, we should try to falsify propositions, but if abiogenesis were true, why can not science prove it in the laboratory by creating life from non-life?

That would be an excellent way to falsify it. But it cannot be done. More evidence that life can only come from other life. Yes, it would be an excellent way, and yes it has not yet been done, although a lot of progress has been made. Some of the fundamental chemical building blocks have been made.

If you think that it is fundamentally impossible, no matter how hard anybody tries, then presumably you think there is something about the particular molecules that are associated with living things DNA, sugars, proteins etc which makes them completely different from other molecules and impossible to construct from anything other than other biological molecules?

If so, what is it? What is it about DNA, for example, that would make it impossible to construct, even in principle, from its constituent atoms? Science could never recognize it because any recognition is beyond empiricism. There is no way to verify the Earth is alive because there is no way to make any sort of psychic connection with it.

I've no idea what you mean by a "psychic connection", but clearly the question of whether Earth is a living thing is an empirical one, so long as you define what you mean by the words that you're using. That's where the debate comes in, it seems to me - the defintion of words. For example, is a colony of ants a living thing? Or is it a collection of living things? Is the Earth a living thing, or a collection of living things?

My "modified" definition of life is an entity with awareness and an ability to react to changes in its environment, i. So you take the abstract concept of sentience as defining life and take away the specifics of the hardware. A bit like considering computer software without caring about the physical medium in which it is stored.

That's ok with me, as long as you state that this is your understanding of the word "life", as you have done here. So other people can be clear that it differs from their definition. The next problem, then, is defining and identifying sentience. Armed with that basic definition of non-carbon based life will in no way help us to recognize it, beyond the life forms in which we already do.

It sounds like a definition of life that could be carbon based but isn't necessarily. The chemical medium the carbon is not relevant to you. What we call "life" is the sentient beings which we can recognize as such, all of which happen to be carbon-based, as we are. Yes, obviously we generally tend to define things by example.

relationship between geology and biology

The only way we can define life, and indeed the only way we can define sentience, is by pointing to examples of it and trying to capture what properties those examples have in common.