Cracking the superheavy pyrite enigma: Possible roles of volatile organosulfur compound emission

Xianguo Lang, Zhouqiao Zhao, Haoran Ma, Kangjun Huang, Songzhuo Li, Chuanming Zhou, Shuhai Xiao, Yongbo Peng, Yonggang Liu, Wenbo Tang, Bing Shen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The global deposition of superheavy pyrite (pyrite isotopically heavier than coeval seawater sulfate in the Neoproterozoic Era and particularly in the Cryogenian Period) defies explanation using the canonical marine sulfur cycle system. Here we report petrographic and sulfur isotopic data (δ34Spy) of superheavy pyrite from the Cryogenian Datangpo Formation (660–650 Ma) in South China. Our data indicate a syndepositional/early diagenetic origin of the Datangpo superheavy pyrite, with 34S-enriched H2S supplied from sulfidic (H2S rich) seawater. Instructed by a novel sulfur-cycling model, we propose that the emission of 34S-depleted volatile organosulfur compounds (VOSC) that were generated via sulfide methylation may have contributed to the formation of 34S-enriched sulfidic seawater and superheavy pyrite. The global emission of VOSC may be attributed to enhanced organic matter production after the Sturtian glaciation in the context of widespread sulfidic conditions. These findings demonstrate that VOSC cycling is an important component of the sulfur cycle in Proterozoic oceans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbernwab034
JournalNational Science Review
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021


  • Cryogenian
  • Datangpo Formation
  • Organosulfur compound
  • Sulfur cycle
  • Sulfur isotope

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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