Earliest life on Earth from billions of years ago has been discovered in an ancient Australian desert. What’s even more incredible is that it could have also lived on Mars.
The 3.5 billion-year-old fossils were discovered at the Dresser Formation fossil site of the Pilbara region in the 1980s but only recently did the experts finally confirm what they actually were. There were small traces of organic matter found in the stromatolites (which are ancient fossilized microbe formations).
“This is an exciting discovery – for the first time, we’re able to show the world that these stromatolites are definitive evidence for the earliest life on Earth,” stated geologist Raphael Baumgartner who is from the University of New South Wales.
One of the biggest challenges in looking for fossilized microbes is that they look very similar to natural folds that are often found in rocks. In fact, that’s exactly what happened in Greenland when researchers claimed to have found 3.7 billion-year-old fossils but were instead just creases in the rock.
The discovery in the Australian desert has been proven to contain organic matter which means that something would have been living inside of the rocks in order to create the matter. “The organic matter that we found preserved within pyrite of the stromatolites is exciting – we’re looking at exceptionally preserved coherent filaments and strands that are typically remains of microbial biofilms,” explained Baumgartner. Their researched was published in the journal Geology and can be read in full here.
He went on to say that he was quite surprised at the evidence they uncovered. Another surprising fact is that this evidence suggests that there could be life on Mars because the crust on the Red Planet is the same age as the deposits found in the Australian desert. In fact, NASA has even been studying the geological signatures in Australia’s Pilbara region in order to get a better understanding of stromatolites possibly being present on Mars. It is believed that the fossilized organisms found in Australia once lived in hot springs and there has been evidence found that strongly suggests that Mars once had hot springs.
Baumgartner finished off by saying, “Understanding where life could have emerged is really important in order to understand our ancestry,” adding, “And from there, it could help us understand where else life could have occurred – for example, where it was kick-started on other planets.”
Since Earth was formed 4.6 billion years ago and the earliest life form has been found in Australia from 3.5 billion years ago is quite an astonishing discovery.