Thursday, January 31, 2013

World's oldest fossils

Most of you would have heard of stromatolites, fossilised communities of single celled blue-green algae (also known as cyanobacteria,) but biogeochemist Nora Noffke believes that the organisms that produced stromatolite structures may have produced other structures that are even older than stromatolites, some may date back to being 3.49Ga!

Microbially induced sedimentary structures or MISS as Nora calls them are believed to represent the oldest fossils ever described, and Nora and her team presented their research at a December meeting of the Geological Society of America.

Like stromatolites, MISS also form their shapes by trapping mineral and sand particles in their matrix. When the community dies off the structure turns to solid rock, fossilising the original structure of the community.

The research centres on the Pilbara region of Western Australia, and whilst the team needs to complete additional research to verify the age of the fossils, the could well be evidence of our oldest ancestors!

Image: Paul Harrison "Stromatolites growing in Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve, Shark Bay in Western Australia."

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