The world’s oldest fossils?

Intricate tracks in the rock

The Nuwukittu Greenstone Belt, where the specimens appeared, formed part of the ocean billions of years ago and contains some of the oldest known sedimentary rocks. To study the rock, the researchers cut it into individual pieces and finally found complex tracks: a tree-like structure with a trunk and parallel branches and hundreds of other spherical tracks. At approximately one centimeter in length, the structure is considerably larger and more complex than previously discovered.

To confirm that the structures are inanimate – that is, inanimate – rather than biological in origin, the researchers compared the compounds found with younger fossils and iron-antioxidant bacteria. In doing so, they discovered similarities to the twisted branch structures and distorted spheres found on the Nuvvukittu rock. The presumption that traces in the rock may actually have come from the first known creatures on Earth is obvious. “Our study confirms that there were different types of bacteria on Earth between 3.75 and 4.28 billion years ago,” said Babino, a professor of geochemistry and astronomy at the University College London. However, the end result requires additional results.

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