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Life Discovered 220 Million Years Earlier than Previous Oldest



(p. A12) Geologists have discovered in Greenland evidence for ancient life in rocks that are 3.7 billion years old. The find, if confirmed, would make these fossils the oldest on Earth and may change scientific understanding of the origins of life.


. . .


The new fossils, described on Wednesday [August 31, 2016] in the journal Nature, are the first visible structures found in the Isua rocks. They are thought to be stromatolites, layers of sediment packed together by microbial communities living in shallow water.

They are some 220 million years more ancient than the oldest previously known fossils, also stromatolites. Those are 3.48 billion years old and were discovered in the Pilbara Craton of Western Australia.

The new report "provides the oldest direct evidence of microbial life," said Gerald Joyce, an expert on the origin of life at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif.


. . .


If life on Earth did not begin until after the Late Heavy Bombardment, then it had a mere 100 million years in which to evolve to the quite advanced stage seen in the new fossils.

If so, Dr. Allwood wrote, then "life is not a fussy, reluctant and unlikely thing." It will emerge whenever there's an opportunity.



For the full story, see:

NICHOLAS WADE. "Greenland Fossils Could Be Oldest Ever Found." The New York Times (Thurs., Sept. 1, 2016): A12.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date AUG. 31, 2016, and has the title "World's Oldest Fossils Found in Greenland.")


The article in Nature, mentioned above, is:


Nutman, Allen P., Vickie C. Bennett, Clark R. L. Friend, Martin J. Van Kranendonk, and Allan R. Chivas. "Rapid Emergence of Life Shown by Discovery of 3,700-Million-Year-Old Microbial Structures." Nature (2016), DOI: 10.1038/nature19355.







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