Ancient fossils in Greenland suggest evidence for microbial life from 3.7 billion years ago | September 5, 2016 Issue - Vol. 94 Issue 35 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 94 Issue 35 | p. 9 | News of The Week
Issue Date: September 5, 2016

Ancient fossils in Greenland suggest evidence for microbial life from 3.7 billion years ago

Researchers discover conical formations they believe are stromatolites, a smoking gun for ancient life
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Analytical SCENE, Biological SCENE, Environmental SCENE
Keywords: origin of life, stromatolite, fossil
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Stromatolites can be seen in this 3.7 billion-year-old rock found in southwestern Greenland.
Credit: Allen Nutman
Image of a rock with a stromatolite found in southwest Greenland.
 
Stromatolites can be seen in this 3.7 billion-year-old rock found in southwestern Greenland.
Credit: Allen Nutman

Melting snow in Greenland has unveiled what might be the world’s oldest fossils. On the newly exposed, 3.7 billion-year-old rock, researchers led by Allen Nutman of the University of Wollongong found conical geological formations called stromatolites (see dotted lines), deposits made by ancient microbial life (Nature 2016, DOI: 10.1038/nature19355). If confirmed, this finding—characterized by trace element, mineral chemistry, and other analyses—pushes back the geological evidence for life by 200 million years. At the time, our planet was being bombarded by asteroids and comets—not particularly hospitable for life. Yet, Nutman tells C&EN, this work confirms what geneticists have long argued: that life did exist during that era.

 
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