[A] new study led by University College London PhD student Matthew Dodd describes evidence of what the researchers believe to be seafloor bacteria that lived at least 3.7 billion years ago.
That evidence comes from rocks that are part of Quebec’s Nuvvuagittuq belt, which contain some of the oldest rocks on the planet. They comprised an ancient seafloor made of volcanic rock, but there are also layers of iron minerals that precipitated out of the seawater. Those are believed to have formed near hydrothermal vents that gushed super-hot water laden with minerals. The Nuvvuagittuq rocks have proven hard to date, but they are known to be at least 3.77 billion years old, and could even be as old as 4.28 billion years—very early indeed, considering that our planet formed only a little over 4.5 billion years ago.
If the researchers are right about what they’ve found, this would be the oldest direct evidence of life we’ve ever seen. What’s more, if the recent discovery of stromatolites in Greenland also turns out to be the real deal, we would be able to say that there were at least two very different types of microorganisms living in very different parts of the ocean by 3.7 billion years ago.
[Read the full study here.]
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