Both background radiation levels and atmospheric oxygen concentrations have changed dramatically over the history of life on earth. Because oxygen has a strong modifying influence on radiogenic mutation rates, these factors must be considered jointly to determine changes in radiogenic mutation rates over time. Using accepted models that describe how both of these parameters have changed through time, we find that radiogenic mutation rates in organisms have fluctuated between about 1.5 to 2.5 times current levels through most of the history of life. The results of this study have interesting implications that may impact our understanding of how modern organisms respond to radiation damage and of models that use molecular clocks to date species divergence times. It Is also possible that changing oxygen levels have served to buffer mutation rate changes that result from changes In background radiation levels over time.
- Naturally occurring radionuclides
- Radiation damage
- Radiation, background
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis