Rapid emergence of life shown by discovery of 3,700-million-year-old microbial structures

Journal: Nature

Published: 2016-08-31

DOI: 10.1038/nature19355

Affiliations: 6

Authors: 5

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Research Highlight

Record breaking fossils

© Mint Images - Frans Lanting/Mint Images RF/Getty

© Mint Images - Frans Lanting/Mint Images RF/Getty

Geologists have found some of the oldest fossils on Earth in an outcrop of 3.7 billion-year-old rocks from Greenland.

The fossilized microbial mats, called stromatolites, are at least 220 million years older than similar structures from Western Australia, providing support for the view that life appeared very soon after the formation of our planet. The find could also help the search for extra-terrestrial life.

An Australia-led research team, which included scientists from the University of New South Wales, discovered the odd reddish stromatolites in the Isua Greenstone Belt rock formation on the southwest coast of Greenland.

They reported the finding in August 2016 in Nature — and, at the time, it was a record. Since then, however, scientists have announced the discovery of new tubelike fossils in 3.77-billion-year-old rocks from Northern Quebec.

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  1. Nature 537, 535–538 (2016). doi: 10.1038/nature19355
Institutions Share
University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney), Australia 0.30
University of Wollongong (UOW), Australia 0.30
Australian National University (ANU), Australia 0.20
non-affiliated author contributions, United Kingdom (UK) 0.20