A new discovery of microbial activity in 3.5 billion-year-old volcanic rock and one of earths earliest signs of geological existence sheds new light on the antiquity of life, says University of Alberta researchers who are part of a team that made the groundbreaking finding.
"People have been looking for signs of early bacteria for the last 50 years," said Dr. Karlis Muehlenbachs, from the U of As Faculty of Science and an author on the paper just published in the journal Science. "A variety have claimed theyve seen it and subsequently been challenged as being flawed. We are suggesting that we have clear evidence of life prospering in an environment where no one else has bothered to look."
The research team, also made up of Drs. Harald Furnes from the University of Bergen in Norway, Neil Banerjee from the U of A, Hubert Staudigel from the University of California and Maarten de Wit from the University of Cape Town, studied samples of pillow lava taken from the Mesoarchean Barberton Greenstone Belt in South Africa. They found mineralized tubes that were formed in the pillow lava, suggesting microbes colonized basaltic glass of the early oceanic crust, much in the same way as they do modern volcanic glass.
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