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Oldest fossils direct indication of life 4 billion years ago

The Oldest Fossils Ever Found Are Direct Evidence Of Life On Earth 3.8 To 4.3 Billion Years Ago, Researchers Told On Thursday In The Journal Nature.

PTI | Updated on: 02 Mar 2017, 02:04:39 PM
Oldest fossils direct indication of life 4 billion years ago

Paris:

The oldest fossils ever found are "direct evidence" of life on Earth 3.8 to 4.3 billion years ago, researchers told on Thursday in the journal Nature.

Researchers have confirmed that the oldest fossils ever found are ' direct evidence' of life on Earth 3.8 to 4.3 billion years ago.

Even at the lower end of the spectrum, "the microfossils we discovered are about 300 million years older" than any runners-up, said Dominic Papineau, a professor at University College London who made the discovery.

Life started just after earth was formed and this fact suggests that life could also have emerged on watery worlds outside our solar system at comparable stages of formation, the scientists said.

"If life happened so quickly on Earth, then could we expect it to be a simple process that could start on other planets?", asked lead author Matthew Dodd, a graduate student at the London Centre for Nanotechnology.

Earth and Mars had liquid water on their surfaces at the same time, he noted.

"We could expect to find evidence for past life on Mars four billion years ago," Dodd said.

It may also be true, he added, that Earth was "just a special case."

The tiny fossils are half the width of human hair and up to half-a-millimetre in length take the shape of red blood tubes and filaments which are formed by the bacteria dwelling in the ocean and feeds on iron.

They are locked inside white flower-like quartz structures  and are known to harbour fossils. They were found along once called warm water vents on the ocean surface, mostly found in deep waters.

Such iron-rich, hydrothermal systems exist today, and are home to bacteria that may be similar to those unearthed by Dodd and his colleagues.

Known as the Nuvvuagittuq Supracrustal Belt, the site of the discovery contains some of the oldest sedimentary rocks known on Earth.

They formed between 3.77 and 4.29 billion years ago, and may have been the habitat for the planet's first life forms.

It is still not known when, or where, life on Earth began, but these deep-sea vents are seen as a good candidate.

Earth is thought to be about 4.57 billion years old.

Previous claims of super-ancient fossils have been challenged by scientists asking whether they are, in fact, natural mineral formations of some kind.

(With PTI inputs)

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First Published : 02 Mar 2017, 08:47:00 AM

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