Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Scientists find microbial remains in ancient rocks

Scientists have found exceptionally preserved microbial remains in some of Earth's oldest rocks in Western Australia -- a major advance in the field, offering clues for how life on Earth originated.

The UNSW researchers found the organic matter in stromatolites -- fossilised microbial structures -- from the ancient Dresser Formation in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
The stromatolites have been thought to be of biogenic origin ever since they were discovered in the 1980s. However, despite strong textural evidence, that theory was unproven for nearly four decades, because scientists hadn't been able to show the definitive presence of preserved organic matter remains – until now.
Stromatolites in the Dresser Formation are usually sourced from the rock surface, and are therefore highly weathered. For this study, the scientists worked with samples that were taken from further down into the rock, below the weathering profile, where the stromatolites are exceptionally well preserved. Using a variety of cutting-edge micro-analytical tools and techniques -- including high-powered electron microscopy, spectroscopy and isotope analysis – the researchers examined the rocks.

This showed exceptionally preserved coherent filaments and strands that are typically remains of microbial biofilms.


Raphael J. Baumgartner, Martin J. Van Kranendonk, David Wacey, Marco L Fiorentini, Martin Saunders, Stefano Caruso, Anais Pages, Martin Homann, Paul Guagliardo. Nano−porous pyrite and organic matter in 3.5-billion-year-oldstromatolites record primordial life. Geology, 2019; DOI: 10.1130/G46365.1

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology

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