Scientists Think They Found The As Yet Oldest Fossil

hydrothermal vents oldest fossil

Researchers believe that they have found the as yet oldest fossil. This was discovered in Canada.

According to a study released last week, researchers believe that they have found the as yet oldest fossil. This was discovered in Canada and is estimated to be up to even 4.3 billion years old.

Research on the matter was carried out by an international team of researchers. They released their study results on March 1st. These were published in the Nature journal. The research paper was titled as follows: “Evidence for early life in Earth’s oldest hydrothermal vent precipitates”.

The researchers consider that they found the as yet oldest fossil. This was approximated to be in between 3.8 to 4.3 billion years old. In their study, the scientists propose as follows.

For the moment, science is unsure of the exact birthplace or time of life on Earth. As such, the study presents submarine hydrothermal vents as a potential early habitat. If not the first, such locations are considered to be in between the first habitable environments.

Hydrothermal vents are held as potential life cradles. They achieved this title thanks to their hot water spewing properties. Nonetheless, the research team was surprised by their discovery.

The currently oldest fossil was discovered in Canada. More exactly, it was detected in the Hudson Bay shoreline, near the Nastapoka Islands in northern Quebec. The fossil is actually a collection of tiny microfossils. They are estimated to be about half the width of a human hair.

These extremely small fossils were nonetheless noted to contain tubes and filaments. In themselves, these are around half a millimeter long. The variously shaped filaments are called hematite. They are composed of iron oxide.

According to the researchers, bacteria may have once resided in these iron oxide filaments. If this is proven true, it would mean that this oldest fossil once held traces of life. A primitive form, microorganisms are known to have later evolved.

They developed into more complex species. Ones which are seen as the jump start to life on Earth. Some 200,000 years later, they could have also advantaged the appearance of the homo sapiens.

According to the study, this oldest fossil structure was surely developed by organisms. The team rules out any non-biological explanation. They also stated that these primordial microbes closely resemble their modern-day counterparts.

The researchers compared them to present-day iron-rich hydrothermal vent dwellers. And reportedly, their structures are very similar. This led the scientists to the following conclusion. The microfossils may have held iron-eating bacteria.

Dominic Papineau offered some further details. He is a study researcher and an astrobiologist at the University College London. According to him, the study offers important details on both the evolution of microbes and life in general.

To be more exact, he stated that some microbes do not present significant changes since their primordial existence. At the same time, microbial life may have diversified very early on in Earth’s history. It may have evolved into specialized microbes.

This latter is a very important factor in the evolution of life. It is also important in the search for life’s origin. Presently, the Canadian microfossils seem to be the as yet oldest fossil. Their age will be a very important factor.

Earth formed some 4.5 billion years ago. Oceans developed some 4.4 billion years ago. If the microfossils are, indeed, almost 4.3 billion years old, it may mean “an almost instantaneous emergence of life”. At least after the appearance of oceans and water.

Image Source: Wikimedia


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