Fossil mounds may be oldest life on Earth

By | June 8, 2006

Fossil mounds may be oldest life on Earth

Odd-shaped mounds of dirt in Australia turn out to be fossils of the oldest life on Earth, created by billions of microbes more than 3 billion years ago, scientists say in a new report.

And these mounds are exactly the type of life astrobiologists are looking for on Mars and elsewhere.

A study published Thursday in the journal Nature gives the strongest evidence yet that the mounds dotting a large swath of western Australia are Earth’s oldest fossils. The theory is that these are not merely dirt piles that formed randomly into odd shapes, but that ancient microbes burrowed in and built them.

“This is the pointy end of the fossil record; this is the first really compelling record,” said study lead author Abigail Allwood, a researcher at the Australian Center for Astrobiology. “It’s an ancestor of life. If you think that all life arose on this one planet, perhaps this is where it started.”

The mounds come in different shapes — like egg cartons, swirls of frosting on cupcakes or waves on the ocean. They are called stromatolites and have been studied for a long time, but the big question has been if they were once teeming with life.” – cnn

Wild. Check out these photos of stromaolites.

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