Greenland may be home to Earth’s oldest fossils | Science News

Real Science. Real News.

Science News is a nonprofit.

Support us by subscribing now.

The –est

Greenland may be home to Earth’s oldest fossils

3.7-billion-year old mounds signal early microbes

1:00pm, August 31, 2016

EARLY START  The wavelike mounds of sediment called stromatolites (marked by dashed lines) embedded inside this cross section of a 3.7-billion-year-old rock may be the oldest known fossilized evidence of life on Earth.

A melting snow patch in Greenland has revealed what could be the oldest fossilized evidence of life on Earth. The 3.7-billion-year-old structures may help scientists retrace the rise of the first organisms relatively soon after Earth’s formation around 4.5 billion years ago (SN: 2/8/14, p. 16), the discoverers report online August 31 in Nature.

Unlike dinosaur bones, the new fossils are not preserved bits of an ancient critter. The Greenland fossils are mounds of minerals a few centimeters tall that may have been deposited by clusters of microbes several hundred million years after Earth formed. The shape and chemical composition of the mounds, called stromatolites, match those formed by modern bacterial communities living in shallow seawater, says a team led by geologist Allen Nutman of the University of

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now.
Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content