Fossils unearthed by Australian scientists in Greenland may be the oldest traces of life ever discovered. A team from the University of Wollongong recently published their findings in the journal “Nature,” describing a series of structures called “stromatolites” that emerged from receding ice.

Implications

The debate will now rise whether or not the structures described in the report were formed biologically or through natural processes. If it turns out that it was biological, “the great age of the fossils complicates the task of rescontructing the evolution of life from the chemicals naturally present on the early Earth” according to the NY Times.




Basically it puts the origin of life close to a time when Earth was being bombarded by asteroids and leaves very little time for evolution to occur.

It puts the origin of life during the late Hadean stage of Earth’s history which is so rightly called do the the “hellish” environment of the Earth at that time. It would be difficult to see how life could have sprung up so rapidly during this environment. This early date, adds The NY Times, “leaves comparatively little time for evolution to have occurred.”

The researchers made this discovery over four years ago but have waited until now to publish their findings so that they could “present it in the most robust way we could manage.”

The Debate is Just Getting Started

Due to the magnitude of their discovery, their findings as well as their interpretation thereof will be heavily scrutinized and debated for years to come before any consensus in the scientific world will be reached.

There are definitely signs of early microbial activity in their discovery but there are also some features that are missing such as crinkling in the layers of sediment.

Here is the link to the entirety of the NY Times article

Here is the link to the original publication in Nature.