(ORDO NEWS) — In Western Australia, traces of one of the earliest forms of life on Earth have been discovered. They were contained in layered rocks of the Dresser Formation, reports Geology.
These rocks are known as stromatolites. Scientists have long assumed that they arose as a result of the vital activity of photosynthetic microbes.
But since no traces of organic matter were preserved in the rocks, many experts questioned this conclusion and argued that geological processes could also be the cause of the origin of stromatolites.
They examined the stromatolite fragments using high-resolution 2D and 3D imaging techniques that capture the finest details.
As a result, they noticed microstructures that “clearly indicate biological processes.”
So, scientists have identified dome-shaped structures characteristic of photosynthesis. Microbes in the center receive more sunlight and grow more intensively than those at the edges.
There were also columnar formations characteristic of modern stromatolites. In general, the samples showed uneven layers typical of microbial mats.
The authors of the scientific work determined that the microorganisms that created them lived 3.48 billion years ago. Apparently they thrived in a shallow geothermal lagoon connected to the ocean.
The question of whether they can be called the oldest living creatures on the planet remains debatable.
Many researchers believe that traces of biological life are present in sediments from Greenland (3.7 billion years) or Canada (4.29 billion years), but in these cases, direct evidence has not yet been found.
The Natural History Museum team also noted that their research could be important in the search for alien life. They proposed using their chosen methods to analyze Martian rocks whenever possible.
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