3 Billion-Year-Old Sulfur-Eating Microbes May Be the Oldest Fossils Ever Found

By Valerie Ross | August 23, 2011 12:21 pm

A cluster of 3.4 billion-year-old fossilized cells

What’s the News: Geologists have found fossils of microorganisms from 3.4 billion years ago, which may be the oldest fossils ever uncovered. Since these microbes date from a time when Earth’s atmosphere was still oxygen-free, astrobiologists could look for similarly structured microbes when searching for extraterrestrial life.

How the Heck:

What’s the Context:

The Future Holds:

Reference: David Wacey, Matt R. Kilburn, Martin Saunders, John Cliff & Martin D. Brasier. “Microfossils of sulphur-metabolizing cells in 3.4-billion-year-old rocks of Western Australia.” Nature Geoscience, published online August 21, 2011. DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1238

Image courtesy of David Wacey / Nature Geoscience

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Space
  • Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    I am glad Brasier et al found methods and results that are so much more testable than Schopf et al pattern search.

    This is interesting from two other aspects.

    – Strelley Pool formation, the find site, has earlier yielded stromatolites with micro-structures much as testable for bacterial origination. I don’t think they were effectively touched by Brasier’s criticism.

    – And the old, not very constrained (putatively ~ 4.28 – 3.85 Ga bp), Nuvvuagittuq greenstone belt may have signs of precisely sulfur metabolism as well. At least you can find, unfortunately unpublished, texts to that effect on the web.

    It would be nice if the Strelley Pool and the Nuvvuagittuq results coalesce on the same ancestral metabolism and push it further back in time, it would be a reasonable hope at this stage.


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