Feeds

Sulphur-loving microbes might be oldest life

Life at Marble Bar close to life on Mars

Top three mobile application threats

A microbial bacterial fossil find is being hailed as proof that life existed in the oxygen-free environment of Earth, 3.4 billion years ago.

The Strelley Pool Formation in Western Australia was once a beach, but is now more than 100 Km inland near(ish) the town of Marble Bar, and is popular among paleontologists because of the stromatolites preserved there.

According to a report in Nature, the structures spotted in black sandstone at the Strelley Pool appear to have biological origins. The researchers, led by University of Oxford paleobiologist Professor Martin Brasier, said the 5-80 micrometer structures show traces of cell walls and spherical, rod and ellipsoid shapes.

However, the report notes that paleontogists have been disappointed in the past. Since microbes lack skeletons to leave conveniently large and unmistakable fossils, their presence in ancient Earth has to be inferred by analysis of rocks’ microscopic structures and chemical composition.

The uniformity of the structures believed to be cell walls lends credence to the idea that the newly-found structures are biological rather than mineral in origin, as does the depletion of Carbon-12 in the surrounding rocks. The researchers also note that the distribution of iron sulphide around the fossils’ cell walls seems to reflect the pattern of pyrites distribution around modern bacteria.

If the Strelley Pool structures are fossils of microbes, they will have been surviving in an atmosphere quite different to the one we know now, and will have metabolized sulphur rather than oxygen for energy.

According to Professor Brasier’s colleague Dr David Wacey of the University of Western Australia, the find pushes the fossil record of life 200 million years. Their ability to survive in a zero-oxygen environment has also added to speculation that life could have once existed on an ancient Mars. ®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
Liftoff! SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts Dragon on third resupply mission to ISS
SpaceX snaps smartly into one-second launch window
KILLER ROBOTS, DNA TAMPERING and PEEPING CYBORGS: the future looks bright!
Americans optimistic about technology despite being afraid of EVERYTHING
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
R.I.P. LADEE: Probe smashes into lunar surface at 3,600mph
Swan dive signs off successful science mission
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.