Mineral Element Insiders and Outliers Play Crucial Roles in Biological Evolution

Eli K. Moore, Daniella L. Martinez, Naman Srivastava, Shaunna M. Morrison, Stephanie J. Spielman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The geosphere of primitive Earth was the source of life’s essential building blocks, and the geochemical interactions among chemical elements can inform the origins of biological roles of each element. Minerals provide a record of the fundamental properties that each chemical element contributes to crustal composition, evolution, and subsequent biological utilization. In this study, we investigate correlations between the mineral species and bulk crustal composition of each chemical element. There are statistically significant correlations between the number of elements that each element forms minerals with (#-mineral-elements) and the log of the number of mineral species that each element occurs in, and between #-mineral-elements and the log of the number of mineral localities of that element. There is a lesser correlation between the log of the crustal percentage of each element and #-mineral-elements. In the crustal percentage vs. #-mineral-elements plot, positive outliers have either important biological roles (S, Cu) or toxic biological impacts (Pb, As), while negative outliers have no biological importance (Sc, Ga, Br, Yb). In particular, S is an important bridge element between organic (e.g., amino acids) and inorganic (metal cofactors) biological components. While C and N rarely form minerals together, the two elements commonly form minerals with H, which coincides with the role of H as an electron donor/carrier in biological nitrogen and carbon fixation. Both abundant crustal percentage vs. #-mineral-elements insiders (elements that follow the correlation) and less abundant outsiders (positive outliers from the correlation) have important biological functions as essential structural elements and catalytic cofactors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number951
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


Dive into the research topics of 'Mineral Element Insiders and Outliers Play Crucial Roles in Biological Evolution'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this