Oldest Life Found on Earth — The Microfossils of Nuvvuagittuq Supracrustal Belt


Received by the international journal of science, Nature, in November 2016, and published in March 2017, a research paper reveals the oldest rocks and microfossils ever found on Earth.

Around 25 kilometers south of an Inuit village in the North of Quebec sits a rare rocky outcrop. It’s known as the Nuvvuagittuq Supracrustal Belt. The metamorphosed mafic to ultramafic volcanic rock (a greenstone belt), over time has undergone extensive metamorphism to form what we see today.

Oldest Life Found on Earth — The Microfossils of Nuvvuagittuq Supracrustal Belt
An outcrop of metamorphosed rock from Nuvvuagittuq.

The grey-green rocks are laced with veins of red and could be easily missed if you were standing on them. Under a prehistoric ocean, the rocks are said to have formed billions of years ago, near ancient hydrothermal vents. Back in 2016 they revealed these signs of ancient life, rewriting the history of our planet.

The international team of researchers behind the paper report that these rocks are between 4.3 and 3.8 billion years old. This makes them the oldest rocks ever found on Earth. Earth is estimated to be just over 4.5 billion years old, so this find provides further validation.

Within the rocks are ancient microorganisms, therefore are now known as the oldest microfossils ever found, and in turn the oldest recorded life on Earth.

A microfossil are fossils that require a microscope to properly examine, and which contain organisms. They are usually between 1mm and 0.001mm in size. In comparison, fossils which are studied with the naked eye are called macrofossils.

The implication of this discovery actually relate to finding life on other planets. So for example, if separate species of bacteria were able to evolve this early on Earth, such life could be found on Mars, like near the hydrothermal vents in Mars’ ancient seas.

I think one of these Nuvvuagittuq Supracrustal Bel rocks would be great to add to my crystal collection.



Article image thumbnail source: Wikipedia

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