3.7 Billion Years Old fossils discovered on Earth in Greenland rocks

Sep 3, 2016 11:10 IST

A team of scientists have discovered the world’s oldest stromatolite fossils about 3.7 billion years old in the world’s oldest sedimentary rocks in the Isua Greenstone Belt along the edge of Greenland’s icecap. The findings were published in journal Nature on 31 August 2016.

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Led by the Australian University of Wollongong’s (UOW) Professor Allen Nutman, the team's discovery pushes back the previous record by 220 million years and captures the earliest history of the planet.

The discovery of the Isua stromatolite fossils provides a greater understanding of early diversity of life on Earth which could have implications for the understanding of life on Mars.

The Study
• A team of Australian geologists made the discovery in July 2012 while carrying out field research in Isua, a remote place in Greenland.
• One day while working at the field, they came across some outcroppings never seen before.
• Upon further assessment, the researchers were able to know they were conical structures, one to four centimeters high.
• The outcroppings looked like microbial mats known as stromatolites. The researchers carried out laboratory analysis and found its formations to be 3.7 billion years old.
• Using radiometric dating, the scientists were able to find out the age of the rocks.


• The fossils are called stromatolites, which are layers of ancient microorganisms that grew in shallow water.
• Stromatolites are built layer-by-layer by a mat of photosynthesising bacteria in shallow water.
• Over time, they create structures of varying size and shape, from tall domed towers to small, pointed cones.
• Oddly enough, stromatolites are older than the world’s oldest rocks, since scientists think that the rocks they co-existed with have been crushed and destroyed by plate tectonic and erosion.

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