Oldest microfossils suggest life thrived on Earth about 4 billion years ago | Science News

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Oldest microfossils suggest life thrived on Earth about 4 billion years ago

Ancient microbes were spewed from deep-sea hydrothermal vents, study claims

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1:00pm, March 1, 2017
hematite

SIGNS OF LIFE  In rocks left over from ancient hydrothermal vents, these microscopic tubes of hematite, an ore of iron, may be remnants of early microbes.

Tiny, iron-rich fossils exhumed from the depths of an ancient ocean could reveal the cradle of life.

These micrometer-scale structures are probably remnants of microorganisms that once lived amidst ancient hydrothermal vents, researchers suggest March 1 in Nature.

“In a nutshell, what we’ve found are the oldest microfossils on Earth,” says study coauthor Matthew Dodd, a biogeochemist at University College London. The rocks that hold the fossils came from Quebec and date to somewhere between 4.28 billion and 3.77 billion years old — when Earth was still a baby. The next oldest microfossils reported are just under 3.5 billion years old, though their validity has been debated (SN: 2/8/14, p. 16).

If Dodd’s structures truly are remnants of microbes, “it’s fantastic. I

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