Chemical nature of the 3.4 Ga Strelley Pool microfossils

by J. Allen et al., 2018 in GeochemicalPerspectiveLetters

The biogenicity of putative traces of life found in early-Archean rocks is strongly debated. To date, only equivocal lines of evidence have been reported, which has prevented a full consensus from emerging. Here we report elemental and molecular data from individual organic microfossils preserved within the 3.4 billion-year-old cherts of the Strelley Pool Formation, Western Australia. The present results support the growing body of evidence advocating their biogenicity, promoting them as the oldest known authentic organic microfossils. These microfossils consist of nitrogen- and oxygen- rich organic molecules that have been only slightly degraded despite experiencing temperatures of ~300 °C. Such molecular preservation emphasises the palaeobiological potential of the Earth’s oldest geological record, whilst providing a promising window into the early biosphere.

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