Tags: life | 3 billion years | fossils

Life From 3.5 Billion Years Ago Found in Fossils

Image: Life From 3.5 Billion Years Ago Found in Fossils

Dark rock with microfossils showing life existed on Earth 3.5 billion years ago. (John Valley/University of Wisconsin)

By    |   Wednesday, 20 December 2017 08:09 AM

Life from 3.5 billion years ago has been found in fossils, ancient microbes complex enough to suggest life has been around 500 million years earlier than believed, a new study reported.

Researchers had long debated if the fossils first found in 1992 in western Australia encased in rock were complex enough to be considered life and if they were really as old as believed, Science magazine reported.

Now, in a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, scientist said they have determined that the ancient fossils were sophisticated enough to be called life, capable of photosynthesis and employing other chemical to take in energy, Birger Rasmussen, a geobiologist at Australia's Curtin University told Science.

J. William Schopf, a professor of paleobiology at the University of California, Los Angeles and the lead author of the study, said his team analyzed the microorganisms with cutting-edge technology called secondary ion mass spectroscopy.

Mass spectroscopy, which reveals the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-13 isotopes, is the information scientists use to determine how the microorganisms lived.

University of Wisconsin researchers, led by geoscience professor John Valley, used a secondary ion mass spectrometer to separate the carbon from each fossil into its constituent isotopes and determine their ratios, UCLA noted.

"By 3.465 billion years ago, life was already diverse on Earth; that's clear — primitive photosynthesizers, methane producers, methane users," Schopf said. "These are the first data that show the very diverse organisms at that time in Earth's history, and our previous research has shown that there were sulfur users 3.4 billion years ago as well.”

"This tells us life had to have begun substantially earlier and it confirms that it was not difficult for primitive life to form and to evolve into more advanced microorganisms."

Other researchers said the new study will likely attract new attention to the fossils that been around for 25 years to see if Schopf's conclusions hold up.

"(The study) will probably touch off a flurry of new research into these rocks as other researchers look for data that either support or disprove this new assertion," Alison Olcott Marshall, a geobiologist at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, told Science.

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Life from 3.5 billion years ago has been found in fossils, ancient microbes complex enough to suggest life has been around 500 million years earlier than believed, a new study reported.
life, 3 billion years, fossils
366
2017-09-20
Wednesday, 20 December 2017 08:09 AM
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