Terrestrial lipid detritus has been found in some pelagic sediments at great distances from land (for example, in the North Atlantic) and aeolian transport has been invoked as one input mechanism to explain this observation1. This is supported by the presence of the same lipids in oceanic aerosols, presumably derived from major wind systems originating on land2,3. Thus, it is vital to examine whether this lipid signature is observed on the continent in the ambient aerosols towards their source regions (such as the Harmattan). We have analysed solvent-extractable lipids in Harmattan aerosols collected in Nigeria and report here that the distributions of hydrocarbons indicate both a major contribution of plant waxes and lesser components of a complex composition, believed to originate from algal and other microbiological detritus in desiccated lacustrine muds or from eroded, recycled sedimentary organic matter.
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