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Skeletal formula of phytane
IUPAC name
3D model (JSmol)
ECHA InfoCard 100.010.303
EC Number 211-332-2
MeSH phytane
Molar mass 282.56 g·mol−1
Appearance Colourless liquid
Odor Odourless
Density 791 mg mL−1 (at 20 °C)
Boiling point 69 to 71 °C (156 to 160 °F; 342 to 344 K) at 100 mPa
S-phrases (outdated) S24/25
Related compounds
Related alkanes
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
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Infobox references

Phytane is a type of diterpenoid alkane. In contrast to pristane, which is formed from the dehydroxylation of phytol, it has one extra carbon. It is a breakdown product of chlorophyll and is now used to indicate ancient CO2 levels. [2]

Phytane gives both a continuous record of CO2 concentrations but it also can overlap a break in the CO2 record of over 500 million years.[2]

Using this proxy carbon dioxide reached 1000 ppm compared to 410 ppm today. [2]Also, the speed of these changes have increased and changes that used to take million of years now occur in a century. [2]

Phytanyl is the corresponding substituent. Phytanyl groups are frequently found in phospholipids in membranes of thermophilic Archaea.[3] These include caldarchaeol, a compound which contains two fused phytanyl chains.

It is used as a bio-marker in petroleum studies.[4]

Unsaturated phytanes[edit]

Phytene is the singly unsaturated version of phytane. Phytene is also found as the functional group phytyl in many organic molecules of biological importance such as chlorophyll, tocopherol (Vitamin E) and phylloquinone (Vitamin K1). Phytene's corresponding alcohol is phytol.

Geranylgeranene is the fully unsaturated form of phytane. The corresponding substituent is geranylgeranyl.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "phytane - Compound Summary". PubChem Compound. USA: National Center for Biotechnology Information. 27 March 2005. Identification and Related Records. Retrieved 14 March 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d Witkowski, Caitlyn (28 Nov 2018). "Molecular fossils from phytoplankton reveal secular Pco2 trend over the Phanerozoic". Science Advances. 2 (11). Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  3. ^ Edited by Ricardo Cavicchioli (2007), Archaea, Washington, DC: ASM Press, ISBN 1-55581-391-7, OCLC 172964654CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Hunt, J. (2002). "Early developments in petroleum geochemistry". Organic Geochemistry. 33: 1025–1052. doi:10.1016/S0146-6380(02)00056-6.