The creationists won’t like this. PhysOrg reports 4 billion years: World’s oldest fossils unearthed. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
Remains of microorganisms at least 3,770 million years old have been discovered by an international team led by UCL [presumably University College London] scientists, providing direct evidence of one of the oldest life forms on Earth. Tiny filaments and tubes formed by bacteria that lived on iron were found encased in quartz layers in the Nuvvuagittuq Supracrustal Belt (NSB), Quebec, Canada.
At least 3.7 billion years old. Ol’ Hambo may have a stroke over this. Then PhysOrg says:
The NSB contains some of the oldest sedimentary rocks known on Earth which likely formed part of an iron-rich deep-sea hydrothermal vent system that provided a habitat for Earth’s first life forms between 3,770 and 4,300 million years ago. “Our discovery supports the idea that life emerged from hot, seafloor vents shortly after planet Earth formed. This speedy appearance of life on Earth fits with other evidence of recently discovered 3,700 million year old sedimentary mounds that were shaped by microorganisms,” explained first author, PhD student Matthew Dodd (UCL Earth Sciences and the London Centre for Nanotechnology).
Here’s the paper in Nature: Evidence for early life in Earth’s oldest hydrothermal vent precipitates. You’ll need a subscription to read more than the abstract, so we’ll stay with PhysOrg, which tells us:
Prior to this discovery, the oldest microfossils reported were found in Western Australia and dated at 3,460 million years old but some scientists think they might be non-biological artefacts in the rocks. It was therefore a priority for the UCL-led team to determine whether the remains from Canada had biological origins.
We’ll skip the description of the fossils. Our last excerpt mentions Mars:
Matthew Dodd concluded, “These discoveries demonstrate life developed on Earth at a time when Mars and Earth had liquid water at their surfaces, posing exciting questions for extra-terrestrial life. Therefore, we expect to find evidence for past life on Mars 4,000 million years ago, or if not, Earth may have been a special exception.”
That last paragraph was enough to get the press interested. We found this at the Telegraph in London: Oldest fossil ever found on Earth shows alien life on Mars is likely . After a very brief description of the discovery they say, with our bold font:
The discovery is the strongest evidence yet that similar organisms could also have evolved on Mars, which at the time still had oceans and an atmosphere, and was being bombarded by comets which probably brought the building blocks of life to Earth.
Imagine the creationists’ reaction to the news that not only is life on earth really old, but now it’s even more likely that there was life on Mars, and probably elsewhere too. Then the Telegraph quotes Dodd:
“Early Mars and early Earth are very similar places, so we may expect to find life on both planets at this time,” said doctoral student Matthew Dodd, the lead author of the study which was co-funded by Nasa. “We know that life managed to get a foothold and evolve rapidly on Earth. So if we have life evolving in hydrothermal vent systems maybe even 4.2 billion years ago when both planets had liquid water on their surface, then we would expect both planets to develop early life.”
Oh wait — they may like this next Dodd quote:
“If we do future sample returns from Mars and look at similarly old rocks and we don’t find evidence of life then this certainly may point to the fact that Earth might have been a very special exception, and life may just have arisen on Earth.”
There’s lots more in the Telegraph story, and you’ll probably read it for yourself, so this is our last excerpt:
If similar life were found earlier on Mars, it could even indicate that life may have had a Martian origin, a concept known as panspermia. Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees said it was possible that life had evolved on both planets at the same time.“It’s indeed possible that life started on Mars as well as the Earth, but then fizzled out – maybe leaving some traces that we will discover from future probes,” he said. “It’s unlikely, I think, that we are ‘Martians’ in the sense that life started only on Mars and then moved here via a meteorite – as some people have claimed in the past.”
Space expert Dr Dan Brown of Nottingham Trent University added: “The discovery is exciting since it demonstrates how quickly life can form if the conditions are right on a planet or moon. “This makes it clear to me that as soon as we find conditions on an exoplanet that would favour life as we know it, the probability of finding some form of life on that planet is very high. However, we are not talking about little green aliens but about microorganisms.
So there you are. The creationist reaction should be spectacular. We’ll be watching for it.
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