Native Village
Youth and Education news
Volume 1   September 2011

Oldest fossil in the world found, scientists claim
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Australia: Could life exist on Mars?

Scientists have found Earth's oldest fossils on the planet's oldest beach. Their find offers convincing evidence that cells and bacteria could thrive in oxygen-free worlds such as Mars.

The cells' microstructures also suggest that some of Earth’s earliest life were spheres and ellipses.

“At last we have good solid evidence for life over 3.4 billion years ago. It confirms there were bacteria at this time, living without oxygen,” says Professor Martin Brasier from Oxford. Brazier was part of a team of scientists from Australia and the U.K. who made the discovery.

The tiny 3,500,000,000 year-old fossil cells were sulfur feeding bacteria that could survive without oxygen. They thrived when Earth was full of rivers of lava, splashing volcanoes, and a suffocating atmosphere. In life’s earliest history, sulfur -- and not oxygen -- was the substance of choice for energy and growth.

Strelley Pool, Western Australia, Australia map zoom x 4The bacteria structures were found in rocks near Strelley Pool, the oldest known beach or shoreline on Earth and home to ancient sedimentary rocks.  The scientists also believe similar microbes may have existed on Mars, whose early atmosphere had water and sulfur like the Earth’s did

“Could these sorts of things exist on Mars? It’s just about conceivable,” says Brasier. “But it would need these approaches – mapping the chemistry of any microfossils in fine detail and convincing three-dimensional images – to support any evidence for life on Mars.”

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