Science 2 min read

Scientists Discover Earliest Signs of Life Ever Recorded

Image courtesy of C.C.Loron, University of Liège

Image courtesy of C.C.Loron, University of Liège

A team of researchers just discovered what seems to be the earliest evidence of life on land here on our planet. In their paper published in the journal Nature, initial analysis of the microscopic fossils revealed that they belonged to a species of fungus that existed around 900 million to one billion years ago.

If the analysis holds up, it will push the record over half a billion years back to the last era of the Precambrian Supereon known as Neoproterozoic Era. According to scientists, this was the period before multicellular life allegedly exploded in our world’s primordial oceans.

To date, the fungi fossils found in Scotland in the early 1900s were deemed as the oldest known evidence of life on land. Those organisms reportedly existed around 400 million years ago during the Devonian Period of the Paleozoic Era, a time known when plants and trees started evolving on land.

Earliest Microscopic Fossils

The newly discovered microscopic fossils were found in the Grassy Bay Formation of the Canadian Arctic during a field expedition. The multicellular species were spotted in shale deposits belonging to a shallow river estuary ecosystem during its time.

The ancient fungi have been classified as Ourasphaira giraldae. Its body structure was composed of branching filaments. The largest measures about a millimeter long.  Corentin Loron, a paleobiologist from the University of Liège in Belgium and the lead author of the study, said:

“Fungi are one of the more diverse groups of eukaryotes known today and, despite this, their ancient fossil record is very scarce.”

Loron and his team were able to determine the fossils as fungi due to the presence of the chitin, a fibrous substance that exists in the cell walls of fungi. At the moment, it remains a mystery how the ancient fungi reached the once shallow river since fungal species are believed to be land-based.

Read More: Iterative Evolution Resurrects Extinct Bird Back From The Dead

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Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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