Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

Living Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, William M. Irvine, Ricardo Amils, Henderson James Cleaves, Daniele Pinti, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Michel Viso


  • Kosei E. YamaguchiEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27833-4_1148-4


A paleosol is a layer of lithified ancient weathering profile or paleoweathering profile (not necessarily a lithified “soil”) that formed in place by alteration of its parent geologic materials by physical, chemical, and in many cases, biological weathering processes. In the astrobiological context, Precambrian paleosols have been targets of intensive research, and also hot debate, in attempts to constrain the redox state of the coeval atmosphere. Paleosols, especially their uppermost parts, were in direct contact with the overlying atmosphere during their formation and were affected by its chemistry. However, in many cases, the uppermost parts of paleosols were eroded away before deposition of the overlying sedimentary materials.


General overviews of paleosols are given in Kraus (1999) and Retallack (2001). “Paleosols” are not necessarily fossil “soils”; they are, in a broad sense, paleoweathering profiles to variable degrees. Hereafter, we focus on the...


Atmosphere Rock alteration (mechanical, chemical) Weathering profile 
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References and Further Reading

  1. Beukes NJ, Dorland H, Gutzmer J, Nedachi M, Ohmoto H (2002) Tropical laterites, life on land, and the history of atmospheric oxygen in the Paleoproterozoic. Geology 30:491–494CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  2. Kraus MJ (1999) Paleosols in clastic sedimentary rocks: their geologic applications. Earth Sci Rev 47:41–70CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  3. Ohmoto H (1996) Evidence in pre-2.2 Ga paleosols for the early evolution of atmospheric oxygen and terrestrial biota. Geology 24:1135–1138CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  4. Retallack GJ (2001) Soils of the past, 2nd edn. Blackwell, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Rye R, Holland HD (1998) Paleosols and the evolution of atmospheric oxygen; a critical review. Am J Sci 298:621–672CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  7. Sheldon ND (2006) Precambrian paleosols and atmospheric CO2 levels. Precambrian Res 147:148–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  9. Yamaguchi KE, Johnson CM, Beard BL, Beukes NJ, Gutzmer J, Ohmoto H (2007) Isotopic evidence for iron mobilization during paleoproterozoic lateritization of the Hekpoort paleosol profile from Gaborone, Botswana. Earth Planet Sci Lett 256:577–587CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  10. Yang W, Holland HD (2003) The Hekpoort paleosol profile in Strata 1 at Gaborone, Botswana: soil formation during the Great Oxidation Event. Am J Sci 303:187–220CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geochemical Laboratory, Department of ChemistryToho UniversityFunabashiJapan