3.77B-year-old fos­sils may be ear­li­est proof of life on Earth

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Sarah Kaplan Wash­ing­ton Post

Tiny, tubu­lar struc­tures un­cov­ered in an­cient Cana­dian rocks could be rem­nants of some of the ear­li­est life on Earth, sci­en­tists say.

The straw-shaped “mi­cro­fos­sils,” nar­rower than the width of a hair and in­vis­i­ble to the naked eye, are be­lieved to come from an­cient mi­crobes, ac­cord­ing to a new study in the jour­nal Na­ture. Sci­en­tists de­bate the age of the spec­i­mens, but the au­thors’ min­i­mum es­ti­mate — 3.77 bil­lion years — would make these fos­sils the old­est ever found.

Other re­searchers in the field ex­pressed skep­ti­cism about whether the struc­tures were re­ally fos­sils, and whether the rocks that con­tain them are as old as the study au­thors say. But the sci­en­tists be­hind the new find­ing be­lieve their anal­y­sis should hold up to scru­tiny. In ad­di­tion to struc­tures that look like fos­sil mi­crobes, the rocks con­tain a cock­tail of chem­i­cal com­pounds they say is al­most cer­tainly the re­sult of bi­o­log­i­cal pro­cesses. If the find­ings are con­firmed, they will boost a be­lief that or­gan­isms arose very early on Earth — and may be evolv­ing on other worlds.

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