For over twenty years, scientists have debated on the age of the oldest fossils ever found on the planet. Now, paleobiologists have finally put an end to the discussion, using the latest techniques in dating to confirm the existence of microbes and bacteria on Earth nearly 3.5 billion years ago, possibly even without the presence of oxygen. These are the first and oldest life forms on record.
Led by William Schopf, a paleobiologist at the University of California-Los Angeles and geoscientist John Valley of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, researchers worked on specimens that were found in 1982 at the Apex Chert, a rock formation in Western Australia, in a piece of rock. These living things are now mostly extinct, Quartz reports.
In 1993, Apex Chert, a rock formation in Western Australia, in a piece of rock and the shape of the fossils were dates as biological creatures that existed 3.45 billion years ago, according to Schopf. The rock held the earliest direct evidence of life, he said, and made the conclusion that there was life on Earth millions of years earlier than anyone had previously thought.
But other scientists argued on the speculative nature of Schopf’s claim, stating that these microfossils did not contain any biological specimens.
Since then, technology has caught up and allowed Schopf and Valley to team up and find a new way to analyze the rock specimen, which is in the London Museum of Natural History.
Valley spent 10 years trying to find a method to analyze the individual species shaped like small cylinders and filaments. The pair were finally able to prove that the fossils were 3.5 billion years old, and that they did contain simple biological life forms.
After a thorough analysis, Schopf and Valley identified five species in the rock, and have confirmed their earlier claim that life on Earth originated a long, long time ago.
I think it’s settled. These are a primitive but diverse group of organisms.
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.