Researchers from India and Japan discovered water droplets trapped in mineral deposits in the Kumaon mountains of Uttarakhand, dating back about 600 million years. These ancient ocean remnants could provide insights into the Neoproterozoic Oxygenation Event and the associated evolution of complex life forms.
Approximately 750-580 million years ago, during the Snowball Earth glaciation period, the Earth was blanketed in thick ice sheets. Photosynthesizing cyanobacteria thrived despite the low nutrient levels, producing a large amount of oxygen. This ultimately led to the Second Great Oxygenation Event occurring from 630-551 million years ago, which in turn, gave rise to the development of more complex life forms.
The Himalayas’ Role in Evolution
The Kumaon Himalayas provide a unique opportunity to explore different Earth processes, as they contain remarkable geological records of events such as continental collisions, tectonic deformation, and climate variation. As one of India’s notable Precambrian basins, the region’s stratigraphic features make it an ideal site for studying the ancient ocean’s water trapped in magnesite crystals. Though the ocean water discovered in these deposits is not from the Himalayas’ current geographical location, the ancient ocean named Tethys existed where the mountain range now stands.
By uncovering more about the Himalayan range’s past and investigating the trapped ocean water, researchers hope to broaden our understanding of ancient oceans’ chemical and isotopic compositions, which have been obscured by tectonic activities over time. Moreover, this knowledge could contribute to future climate modeling and offer valuable insights into Earth’s history and the evolution of life.