At a certain period in Earth's history, its atmosphere contained almost no oxygen, although plants were producing vast quantities of oxygen. As a way of reconciling these two facts, scientists have hypothesized that nearly all of the oxygen being produced was taken up by iron on Earth's surface. Clearly, however, this explanation is inadequate. New studies show that the amount of iron on Earth's surface was not sufficient to absorb anywhere near as much oxygen as was being produced. Therefore, something in addition to the iron on Earth's surface must have absorbed much of the oxygen produced by plant life.