Paleontologists find world's oldest fossil

Haematite tubes found at the Canadian site

Dodd's team discovered these purported microbes in rocks believed to be up to 4.28 billion years old, which would have been several hundred million years earlier than the time during which the first now accepted evidence of ancient life on Earth would have existed, the BBC said.

A report from CNN details the new discovery, where scientists were able to spot small filaments and tubes in quartz layers in Quebec's Nuvvuagittoq Supracrustal Belt.

Similar filaments are excreted by modern bacteria that consume iron, says co-author Dominic Papineau, also of University College London.

Many in the scientific community remain skeptical about the study's findings, the Post noted, including the fossil's reported age and whether or not the discovery is even a fossil at all. 2017. In Nutman et al., they only found stromatolite-type structures rather than actual microfossils.

UCL's Matthew Dodd said the tiny fossils - half the width of a human hair and up to half a millimetre in length - lived near a vent in the seafloor where water was heated by a volcano.

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The microfossils were discovered on coastal rocks, along the Quebec shoreline in Canada. But Bosak says the life-like forms could be much younger than the rocks they were found in.

Indeed, the idea that life on Earth emerged around hydrothermal vents (or... one hydrothermal vent?) is one of the oldest theories regarding the spawning of life on our planet, competing with panspermia - the theory that life was brought by an asteroid or some other celestial body.

Prior to the UCL paper, the oldest microfossils were dated at 3.46bn years old, found in Australia. He says this more unorthodox technique was necessary for measuring the rock's age, because rocks from the Earth's infancy do not contain the mineral zircon, which is typically used to determine age.

That issue has still not been settled, but it started an ongoing debate on how to define what counts as evidence of life on Mars or anywhere else away from Earth. Given the long-standing theory that the origin of life happened in hydrothermal vent environments, we knew that these rocks were flawless choices to look for Earth's oldest lifeforms.

"The fact we unearthed them from one of the oldest known rock formations, suggests we've found direct evidence of one of Earth's oldest life forms", he said.

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That is a time not long after the planet's formation and hundreds of millions of years before what is now accepted as evidence for the most ancient life yet found on Earth.

The Earth formed almost 4.6 billion years ago as a molten ball of rock and gas, around the same time as the birth of the sun.

Haematite tubes from the NSB hydrothermal vent deposits that represent the oldest microfossils and evidence of life on Earth.

It's not clear when or where life on this planet began, but scientists are working hard to find out.

Scientists have discovered the world's oldest fossil, the remains of microorganism that lived between 3.7 and 4.3 billion years ago. That could reveal whether the planet was already covered in life 4 billion years ago or whether it was isolated in a few pockets around stromatolites and hydrothermal vents. The latter are found near vents that also have graphite and apatite not to mention carbonate in them. "These pathways are, I think, a little bit too complex to have arisen so early and have resisted space and then seeded Earth".

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Dodd continued to say that when the structures were developed, both Earth and Mars would have had liquid water on their surfaces. They are similar to iron-oxidizing bacteria found near hydrothermal vents today.

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