- If you are not yet a Down To Earth subscriber, please click here to subscribe: Subscription
- If you are an existing Down To Earth subscriber, please log in to download digital archives.
Discovered four years ago, the finds were not publicised at that time as geologists led by Allen P Nutman of the University of Wollongong in Australia took time to check them out
Fossils found in Greenland may change our understanding of how life originated on Earth. Dating back 3.7 billion years, these fossils are the oldest physical evidence of life on our planet. The findings can force us to think about possible existence of life elsewhere in the universe.
Discovered four years ago, the finds were not publicised at that time as geologists led by Allen P Nutman of the University of Wollongong in Australia took time to check them out.
Prior to this discovery, the oldest known evidence of life were 3.48 billion-year-old fossil stromatolites found in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
The fossils found by Nutman and team formed part of an outcrop of an ancient rock that had melted. Known as the Isua supracrustal belt, it lies on the southwest coast of Greenland and is some 3.9 to 3.7 billion years old.
The researchers, who published their findings in the journal, Nature, believe that the fossils are stromatolites, mound-like structures produced by bacteria.
Stromatolites are believed to have been created by microbial communities living in shallow waters that trapped and bound together thin layers of sediments.
The bugs formed colonies on the sea floor, depositing carbonates and combining with sediment to make mounds that were eventually preserved in layers of rock.
The discovery of the Isua stromatolite fossils provides a greater understanding of early diversity of life on Earth and researchers said could have implications for our understanding of life on Mars.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.