Scientists at the University of Aberdeen have helped reveal the importance of copper to early life.
An abundance of the metal helped provide proteins, supporting the spread of animals 700 million years ago.
Scientists analysed geological records to prove that the level of copper in the environment increased around the time animals emerged.
The study was led by the University of Aberdeen’s Professor John Parnell.
He said: “Our research shows that across the planet, magmas from deep in the Earth brought copper-bearing volcanic rocks to the surface about 800 million years ago.
“Animals use copper in several ways, but two critical functions of the metal give animals the strength to support themselves, and the ability to breathe oxygen from the air by making compounds called copper proteins, which are essential to the way they live.”