3.5 Billion years ago—Oldest Evidence of Life on Earth found

Experts have discovered the OLDEST evidence of life on our planet: 3.5 BILLION years ago. This unbelievable discovery pushes back the oldest evidence of life on land by 580 million years, experts say.

Previous evidence for the world’s oldest life on land came from 2.7—2.9billion years old deposits found in South Africa.

In ancient hot springs in Australia, scientists found the oldest evidence of life on our planet, dating back a staggering 3.5 billion years ago. This discovery indicates that renowned naturalist, geologist, and biologist, Charles Darwin was right about the origins of life.

In 1971, Darwin proposed that ‘life’ originated in a ‘warm little pond’.

Scientists believe that Darwin’s theory has proven to be accurate after they uncovered the oldest evidence of life on land, in 3.5 billion-year-old rocks in Australia.

The revolutionary study was made by Ms. Djokic and Professors Martin Van Kranendonk, Malcolm Walter and Colin Ward of UNSW Sydney, and Professor Kathleen Campbell of the University of Auckland and was published in the Journal Nature Communications.

The discovery—which came as a surprise to many—may help astronomers in the search for alien life on Mars, as the red planet also had hot springs similar to Earth some 3.5 billion years ago. Coincidence? I think not.

“Our exciting findings don’t just extend back the record of life living in hot springs by 3 billion years, they indicate that life was inhabiting the land much earlier than previously thought, by up to about 580 million years,” says researcher and UNSW Ph.D. candidate, Tara Djokic.

Spherical bubbles preserved in 3.48 billion-year-old rocks in the Dresser Formation in the Pilbara Craton in Western Australia provide evidence for early life having lived in ancient hot springs on land. Credit: UNSW
Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-05-oldest-evidence-life-billion-year-old-australian.html#jCp

“This may have implications for an origin of life in freshwater hot springs on land, rather than the more widely discussed idea that life developed in the ocean and adapted to land later.”

Currently, experts are considering two main theories regarding how life came into existence.

One of them is that it began somewhere in deep sea hydrothermal vents, or alternatively, that it began on land, as Charles Darwin suggested—in a warm little pond.

“The discovery of potential biological signatures in these ancient hot springs in Western Australia provides a geological perspective that may lend weight to a land-based origin of life,” says Ms Djokic.

“Our research also has major implications for the search for life on Mars, because the red planet has ancient hot spring deposits of a similar age to the Dresser Formation in the Pilbara.

“Of the top three potential landing sites for the Mars 2020 rover, Columbia Hills is indicated as a hot spring environment. If life can be preserved in hot springs so far back in Earth’s history, then there is a good chance it could be preserved in Martian hot springs too.”

Scientists looked at incredibly well-preserved deposits which are around 3.5 billion years old in the ancient Dresser formation in the Pilbara Craton of Western Australia. The deposits—which appeared on land and not in the ocean—were identified by the presence of geyserite, a mineral deposit that usually formed near boiling temperatures, silica-rich, fluids that are only found in a terrestrial hot spring environment.

“This shows a diverse variety of life existed in fresh water, on land, very early in Earth’s history,” says one of the team, Martin Van Kranendonk, from UNSW.

“The Pilbara deposits are the same age as much of the crust of Mars, which makes hot spring deposits on the red planet an exciting target for our quest to find fossilized life there.”

Source: https://www.nature.com/ncomms/

Featured image: Flicker/NASA/Goddard.

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