Deposits preserved in 3.48 billion-year-old rocks formed in ancient hot springs in Western Australia provide evidence that microbial life on land originated 580 million years earlier than thought, according to a study.
Besides shedding new light on the origin of life on Earth, the researchers believe that their findings have major implications for the search for life on Mars as well.
Previously, the world’s oldest evidence for microbial life on land came from 2.7- 2.9 billion-year-old deposits in South Africa containing organic matter-rich ancient soils.
“Our exciting findings don’t just extend back the record of life living in hot springs by three billion years, they indicate that life was inhabiting the land much earlier than previously thought, by up to about 580 million years,” said study first author Tara Djokic (pictured), from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney.
“This may have implications for an origin of life in freshwater hot springs on land, rather than the more widely discussed idea that life developed in the ocean and adapted to land later,” Djokic said.
Scientists are considering two hypotheses regarding the origin of life. Either that it began in deep sea hydrothermal vents, or alternatively that it began on land in a version of Charles Darwin’s “warm little pond.” — IANS