Feeds

Sulphur-loving microbes might be oldest life

Life at Marble Bar close to life on Mars

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

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. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
Ex-Soviet engines fingered after Antares ROCKET launch BLAST
Speculation rife, but Orbital claims it's too early to tell
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
NASA: Spacecraft crash site FOUND ON MOON RIM
'What fun!' exlaims NASA boffin who found the LADEE
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
The Heartbleed Bug: how to protect your business with Symantec
What happens when the next Heartbleed (or worse) comes along, and what can you do to weather another chapter in an all-too-familiar string of debilitating attacks?