Scientists discover world's most ancient fossils

Leslie Dixon
March 5, 2017

Whether they represent such truly old remainsĀ or remains of life at all, is already being debated.

The fossils were found to have biological origins. However, he also points to a study published in Nature last September that found 3.7 billion-year-old stromatolites in southwest Greenland - not far away from these microfossils.

Now, a team led by geochemist Dominic Papineau of University College London and his Ph.D. student Matthew Dodd says it has found clear evidence of such ancient vent life. The NSB contains a portion of one the oldest sedimentary rocks that is known on Earth which likely shaped some portion of an iron-rich deep-sea hydrothermal vent system that gives a natural habitat for Earth's first life forms between 3,770 and 4,300 million years prior.

Scientists have discovered the world's oldest fossil, the remains of microorganism that lived between 3.7 and 4.3 billion years ago. The chemical patterns they found look just like known deposits of vent-loving microbes in much more recent samples from other locations.

The team of global researchers, led by Dominic Papineau and Matthew Dodd from University College London, discovered the specimens (embedded in quartz) in the remote Nuvvuagittuq Supracrustal Belt, or NSB, along the eastern shore of the Hudson Bay, near Quebec, Canada.

Rock containing tubular and filamentous microfossils. This rock unit is a portion of ancient seafloor that once contained hydrothermal vents.

The fossil structures were encased in quartz layers in the so-called Nuvvuagittuq Supracrustal Belt (NSB).

A microscopic image of the tiny fossils that prove life existed as far back as 4.2 billion years
A microscopic image of the tiny fossils that prove life existed as far back as 4.2 billion years

Researchers say they've found fossilized bacteria that may date back to shortly after the formation of the Earth (geologically speaking, anyway), the New York Times reports.

"I think it would be incredibly exciting to find some sign of something that was living 3.8 billion years ago, at a time that was not very favorable to life".

The researchers knew their claim of tiny creatures in 4-billion-year-old rock would be controversial. In fact, he says, "there's just not definitive proof that any of the textures or the minerals or features they have is unique of life".

Furthermore, we found these same minerals inside granules which occur in the rocks hosting the microfossils. As NBC News reported, it's also possible that the tubes could have been formed over time, as the sedimentary rocks compressed and shifted along with the Earth's tectonic plates. When the microbes died, iron in the water would latch onto their decaying bodies, eventually replacing their organic structures with stone that the researchers can now study. It's a question that intrigues and infuriates scientists and geologists think the answer lies inside Earth's oldest rocks. The filaments are composed of hematite (red lines), and are located in a quartz layer (white) surrounded by magnetite (black), where both hematite and magnetite are iron oxide minerals. The iron filaments closely resemble those made by bacteria at modern hydrothermal vents, leading the authors to argue biological formation of these tubes is the most convincing explanation for their findings.

Scientists have gotten excited before about what look like exotic bacterial fossils.

The fossils were found in a remote area of Canada's Nunavik region. The research which is going on Mars in which the makers are trying to find such proofs to prove that life can sustain on Mars is now found on Earth which kick up many theories.

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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