by Brooks Hays
Wollongong, Australia (UPI) Sep 1, 2016
Newly unearthed microbial fossils suggests life thrived on Earth earlier than previously thought.
A team of Australian researchers have discovered 3.7 billion-year-old stromatolites -- fossil structures formed by ancient microbes -- in the oldest sedimentary rocks on the planet. The fossils were found in the Isua Greenstone Belt at the border of Greenland's icecap. Recent melting exposed the fossils to the sea and made them visible to a team of scientists looking for ancient evidence of life.
The discovery pushes back the appearance of stromatolites in the fossil record by 220 million years.
"The significance of stromatolites is that not only do they provide obvious evidence of ancient life that is visible with the naked eye, but that they are complex ecosystems," Allen Nutman, a professor at the University of Wollongong, said in a news release.
"This indicates that as long as 3.7 billion years ago microbial life was already diverse," Nutman said. "This diversity shows that life emerged within the first few hundred millions years of Earth's existence, which is in keeping with biologists' calculations showing the great antiquity of life's genetic code."
Researchers say the discovery will force planetary scientists to rethink their search for life on Mars. The new evidence shows that life can thrive even among the harsh environments of early Earth.
"This discovery turns the study of planetary habitability on its head," said Vickie Bennett, a researcher with Australian National University. "Rather than speculating about potential early environments, for the first time we have rocks that we know record the conditions and environments that sustained early life. Our research will provide new insights into chemical cycles and rock-water-microbe interactions on a young planet."
Researchers detailed their discovery in the journal Nature.
Explore The Early Earth at TerraDaily.com
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement|