The geochemistry of fatty acids in recent marine sediments




Leo, Richard Francis, 1933-

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title





The purpose of this work was to study the geochemical fate of fatty acids in the sedimentary environment. This problem was approached by investigating the fatty acid composition of sediments of recent and ancient geological age. Most of the samples analyzed were of recent age as the emphasis was on the geologically early changes that the fatty acid fraction of cellular debris has undergone. Samples of 400 year old bog butter were also examined as they afforded a particularly suitable means to study the relative stabilities of the various kinds of fatty acids. Since fats consitute one of the three main groups of organic substances in living organisms, their supply to the sediments is relatively large. In addition, fatty acids are among the more stable organic species in sediments. In principle, fatty acids can survive at low temperatures for billions of years and therefore, might be found in very old sedimentary rocks of mild metamorphic history. But other factors, such as biological activity and chemical interactions within the sediment, tend to diminish this possibility. None of the sediment samples examined in this study were devoid of fatty acids. The oldest of these samples, the 70 million year old Thermopolis shale, was relatively rich in fatty acids. In this study, the qualitative and quantitative nature of the major fatty acids in typical marine sediments have been established. The relationship between the quantity of fatty acids and the total organic matter in sediment has been noted. The occurrence and distribution of several acids heretofore unreported in sediments have been observed