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Minerals evolved too

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Edited by Richard Walker, Sunday, 21 Feb 2010, 15:30

That's the startling conclusion of an article in the March edition of Scientific American.

There are currently about 4400 different minerals on the Earth's surface but originally there would have been much fewer.  Volcanic action, tectonic processes and atmospheric weathering gradually increased that number to a couple of thousand.

But with the coming of life and in particular photosynthesis the atmosphere gained oxygen and this led to the emergence of novel minerals, oxides and so on.  About 2500 new species of mineral now appeared.

So is seems minerals co-evolved with life, and if there is extraterrestial life, perhaps on planets with quite different surface chemistry, it may be those planets likewise have a richness and diversity of minerals, compared with lifeless ones.

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