They find fossils of microorganisms that lived 3.4 billion years ago

A team from the University of Bologna, in Italy, has discovered the fossil remains of bacteria that lived 3.4 billion years ago under the sea and were involved in the cycle of methane, a gas responsible for life. It is the oldest evidence of this type of microorganism.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, specifically analyzes two thin layers of a rock found in Barberton Greenstone, a town in eastern South Africa, where the sedimentary rocks are among the oldest and best-preserved on Earth.

árbara Gavalazzi, professor at the University of Bologna said, what we have found are remarkably well-preserved specimens of fossil microbes that probably extended along the walls of cavities several meters below sea level that were formed by hot water currents animated by underground hydrothermal systems.

It is relevant because some of the earliest ecosystems on our planet were probably born in subterranean environments fueled by volcanic activity, and what they have found is the oldest evidence ever found of this type of environment and sheds light on the earliest forms. life of our planet.

These microhabitats could arise thanks to the interaction between the cooler seawater and the warmer hydrothermal flows in the subsoil. The microfossils in the study are composed of a carbon-rich outer part and a different inner nucleus from both a chemical and structural point of view: a configuration reminiscent of the typical subdivision of cells.

 In particular, similarities have been identified with modern Archea, which are single-celled organisms that live without oxygen and whose metabolism uses methane.

Cavalazzi emphasizes said, we knew that Archea- type prokaryotes can be preserved as fossils, but until today we had very few examples. This discovery could be the first evidence of Archaea fossils dating back to the period when life emerged on our planet.

Those responsible for the study also argue that it is possible that there were environments on Mars similar to those in which fossilized microorganisms lived so that the finding can help shed light not only on life on Earth but also on the red planet.  And it is that the microorganisms there could be present in the dust of the Martian soil.

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