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Most Ancient Fossils Aren't Life, Study Suggests

• livescience.com

Structures thought of as the oldest known fossils of microbes might actually be microscopic mineral formations not associated with life, suggesting that astrobiologists must be careful calling alien objects "life" when scientists have trouble telling what is or was alive on Earth.

More than 20 years ago, microscopic structures uncovered in the roughly 3.5-billion-year-old Apex Chert formation in western Australia were described as the oldest microbial fossils. These structures were interpreted as cyanobacteria, once known as blue-green algae, embedded in a silica-loaded rock formed in a shallow marine setting. These structures were all detected in slices of rock just 300 microns thick, or roughly three times the diameter of a human hair.

 

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