Abteilung Geobiologie

Welcome to the Department of Geobiology!

Geological and biological processes are often directly related, and have greatly influenced the biodiversity and shape of our planet. The Geobiology Group studies the evolution of organisms and the interactions between the biosphere and the geosphere, in the present and throughout Earth's history since life originated at least 3.5 billion years ago.

In addition to multicellular animals and plants, which are in the focus of classical paleontology, we are also interested in microorganisms that once made our planet habitable to animals and higher plants, and which have dominated the biosphere for over 80% of Earth's history. We want to know what these microorganisms are, understand their metabolic and survival strategies, and gain insight into how they have had, and continue to make, a lasting impact on Earth’s element cycles.

Geobiology is a highly interdisciplinary science. Our research employs state-of-the-art methods ranging from paleontology, geochemistry, microbiology, zoology, botany, and molecular genetics. Geobiological research generates knowledge that can address real world problems, for example the extraction and recycling of industrial raw materials and the rehabilitation of contaminated ecosystems. Geobiology also provides important fundamental knowledge for managing ecosystems, responding and adapting to the challenges of today’s global climate change, and also to understanding how extra-terrestrial geological and potential biological systems may have evolved.


Iron-sulphur minerals bear witness to the earliest life on earth
Spherical pyrite from black smokders puts Tübingen and Göttingen researchers on the trail of the first micorbes that lived billions of years ago. Press release: www.uni-goettingen.de

Original publication: Eric Runge et al. Hydrothermal sulfidation of biogenic magnetite produces framboid-like pyrite. Communications Earth & Environment. www.nature.com/articles

Schwarze Raucher
Photo © MARUM – Zentrum für Marine Umweltwissenschaften, Universität Bremen

Surprisingly vibrant colour of 12-million-year-old snail shells
Researchers provide world's first evidence of intact polyene pigments in fossils
Press release
Fossiles Schneckengehäuse
Original publication: Wolkenstein, K. et al. Detection of intact polyene pigments in Miocene gastropod shells. Palaeontology (2024). DOI: 10.1111/pala.12691

New pieces of the puzzle discovered to reconstruct earliest life
Congratulations to Manuel Reinhardt, part of the Geobiology Team, with new findings about a 3.4 - billion-year-old ecosystem.
Photo © Dr. Manuel Reinhardt

The researchers analysed well-preserved particles of carbonaceous matter – the altered remains of living organisms – and the corresponding rock layers from samples of the Barberton greenstone belt, a mountain range in South Africa whose rocks are among the oldest on the Earth's surface. The scientists combined macro and micro analyses to clearly identify original biological traces and distinguish them from later contamination. They identified geochemical "fingerprints" of various microorganisms, including those that must have used sunlight for energy, metabolised sulphate and probably also produced methane. Read more about it: Published at NewScientist and BusinessInsider .

Dreissenid mussels: the resilience and success of an invasive species
Scientists shed light on unique fibre structure, evolutionary history and combating invasive species
Click here for the article: www.uni-goettingen.de

Congratulations to Eric Runge for receiving the renowned Paul-Ramdohr Award on September in Vienna for his presentation at GeoMinKöln 2022. Eric compared the characteristics of synthetic and biogenic Fe-minerals with minerals in modern and ancient hydrothermal sulfide deposits. This will improve the understanding of the formation and preservation of biosignatures in hydrothermal environments and thus contribute to the reconstruction of microbial life.
Eric_Verleihung in Wien  (2)

Research team led by Göttingen University describe early occurrence of irregular sea urchins in the depths of the oceans (Bachelor and Master Thesis on this subject available )
Fossil spines reveal deep sea´s past
sea urchin spines

Congratulations to Jorinel Manuel Domingos – MSc student & valuable member of the geobiology team – whose first author publication about pyrite growth has made it to the front cover article of Geochemical Perspective Letters (GPL).
Geochemical Perspectives Letters

Pliocene fossil-lagerstätte Willershausen – new geotope station for a word-famous geobiological treasure in Lower Saxony
A new geotope station for the fossil-lagerstätte Willershausen, which was created under the direction of the local history society Willershausen, has been formally handed over at an opening ceremony on August 12th. See https://www.leinetal24.de/lokales for details.

Photo © Dr. R. Hoppenheit

Congratulations on the PhD, Wanli Xiang! (30.06.2023)

JP Duda (2022): Grow with the flow – Exploring the geobiology of ancient seepage habitats.Grow with the flow
Virtual Seminars in Precambrian Geology (University of California Riverside)

Award for Jan-Peter Duda
Thrilled to announce that J.-P. Duda has been awarded a prestigious visiting professorship at the world-renowned Northwest University (NWU) in Xi’an (PR China). Furthermore, he has been appointed as overseas academic expert to the 111 Center Early Life & Environments at NWU. News broken by high-level visitors from NWU, including Prof. Shaocong Lai (vice president NWU). Looking forward to exciting Sino-German cooperation projects with Prof. Dongjing Fu and team on early life and deep time geobiology!
Award for JPD_bearbeitet

Welcome Dmitriy “Dima” Grazhdankin!
Dima was awarded the prestigious Gauß-Professorship of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences, allowing him to join our team to work on the terminal Proterozoic Earth-life system. Photo (from left to right): J. Reitner, D. Grazhdankin, D. Göske


Dr. Yu Pei (Geobiology Research Group) has been awarded the Adolf von Koenen-Prize 2021/22, which recognizes outstanding dissertations at the Göttingen Geoscience Center!


Press release: Glowing fossils: fluorescence reveals colour patterns of earliest scallops
Wolkenstein, K. (2022): Fluorescent colour patterns in the basal pectinid Pleuronectites from the Middle Triassic of Central Europe: origin, fate and taxonomic implications of fluorescence. Palaeontology. https://doi.org/10.1111/pala.12625 (open access)

Press release: Algae reveal clues about climate changes over millions of years
Rampen, S. W., Friedl T., Rybalka N. & Thiel V. (2022): The Long chain Diol Index: A marine palaeotemperature proxy based on eustigmatophyte lipids that records the warmest seasons. - PNAS 119, e2116812119. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2116812119