The putative Canadian fossils were encased in quartz layers in the Nuvvuagittuq Supracrustal Belt, which contains some of the oldest sedimentary rocks on Earth. Dominic Papineau Papineau hopes that the whole scientific community will accept their findings and will prove it true. Sure enough, biogeochemist Matt Dodd from University College London analyzed the samples and found the fossil-like shapes. In doing so, we found microscopic filaments and tubes of iron, ranging in size from 5-10 microns in diameter, less than half the width of human hair, and up to half a millimetre in length.
The oldest known signs of life on Earth have been found in northern Quebec, buried in a sheet of potentially 4.3 billion-year-old bedrock that once formed the bottom of the planet's first ocean.
The worldwide team used a laser imaging system, ion beams, and electron miscroscopes to look at the structures in the rock - not just their shape but the minerals they were made of.
As they are almost as old as Earth, the team's finding could support previous indications that life may have begun in this environment. Plus, graphite, apatite and carbonate were also found alongside the 3.77 billion-year-old fossils.
"This speedy appearance of life on Earth fits with other evidence of recently discovered 3,700 million year old sedimentary mounds that were shaped by micro-organisms".
She believes, as does Martin Van Kranendonk, co-author of the Greenland fossils study that was published previous year, that high temperatures and pressure exerted on the rocks are more plausible reasons for the filaments' formation.More news: Spotify is preparing to launch a Hi-Fi music tier
But some scientists are sceptical, as they don't think such fossils could have been preserved for that long.
It would help if we had some idea of how life started on Earth. "So if we have life evolving in hydrothermal vent systems maybe even 4.2 billion years ago when both planets had liquid water on their surface, then we would expect both planets to develop early life". So we assessed all the likely scenarios that could have formed the tubes and filaments, including chemical gradients in iron-rich gels and metamorphic stretching of the rocks.
If the quartz falls closer to the older end of the range, the revision would be even more dramatic, suggesting "an nearly instantaneous emergence of life" after ocean formation 4.4 billion years ago, first author Matthew Dodd explained in a press release.
Hematite tubes from the NSB hydrothermal vent deposits that represent the oldest microfossils and evidence for life on Earth.
Researchers analyzed the newly discovered piece quartz to determine whether the mineralized tube structures could have been formed by temperature or pressure changes. The best evidence for these fossilized algal mats comes from 3.4-billion-year-old rocks in Australia, generally thought of as the strongest evidence for early life on Earth. However, he also points to a study published in Nature last September that found 3.7 billion year old stromatolites in southwest Greenland - not far away from these microfossils. If it can be proven that the structures detected were produced by biological processes, it could have an impact not just on our understanding of life on Earth, but on other planets as well.
"Depending on how the age controversy of these rocks plays out, we may have very different question and answer to where the origin of life may have been on earth", Dodd says.