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Salty Old Cellulose: Tiny fibers found in ancient halite deposits

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2:40pm, April 2, 2008

Researchers have unearthed the planet's oldest-known intact biological macromolecules, microscopic bits of cellulose from 253-million-year-old salt deposits in the southwestern United States.

The remarkable preservation of the material suggests that under the right conditions, cellulose could last more than 1 billion years. Such a long-lived molecule, a chain of simple sugars, might give scientists searching for past extraterrestrial life on other planets a new target.

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