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Crystals suggest earlier emergence of life

Posted on Tuesday, 20 October, 2015 | Comment icon 26 comments

The conditions on our planet during the first few hundred million years were literally hellish. Image Credit: USGS
New evidence has revealed that life may have appeared on Earth 300 million years earlier than thought.
Scientists investigating the origins of life on Earth made the discovery while examining zircon crystals which preserve materials from the environment in which they were originally formed.

Due to the fact that these crystals are practically indestructible they can act as a time capsule through which it is possible to learn about the conditions that existed during Earth's earliest days.

Now researchers believe that they have found crystals containing traces of graphite - something that could have been created through organic processes - dating back a staggering 4.1 billion years.
The find is important because it pushes the emergence of life on Earth back by another 300,000 years to a time when the conditions on our planet were so hellish that the era has been named 'Hadean' after the Greek god of the underworld.

While the results of the study remain controversial, they do hold the potential to rewrite what we know of life's development on Earth while also opening up the possibility that life could have also emerged on other worlds with similarly inhospitable conditions.

"On Earth today, if you were looking at this carbon, you would say it was biogenic," said lead author Elizabeth Bell. "Of course, thatís more controversial for the Hadean."

Source: Washington Post | Comments (26)

Tags: Earth, Life

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #17 Posted by freetoroam on 21 October, 2015, 20:02
We all know the earth is only 6000 years old. I think the problem lies in mathematical discrepancies during translations. :/ It is only a discrepancy of a few million years, whats a few million years among translators.
Comment icon #18 Posted by Lucas Cooper Merrin on 21 October, 2015, 20:09
It is only a discrepancy of a few million years, whats a few million years among translators. Exactly! Its like throwing a deck chair off the Titanic
Comment icon #19 Posted by Ashotep on 21 October, 2015, 20:49
Yeah, I was just replying to what your said. Sorry to implicate otherwise. It's an interesting theory you have. That is fine, I needed to make myself more clear about what I was getting at. Just seems funny that if the zircon is 4.1 billion years old, the graphite is even older and the earth is 4.6 BYO that life would have had time to form here.
Comment icon #20 Posted by aquatus1 on 21 October, 2015, 23:31
I don't know...It seems to me that the research has more to do with the chemofossil record than the microfossil record. Graphite was found which has been shown to be consistent with a biogenic origin. That's the actual discovery. But is a biological process the only means through which this graphite could be produced? This is definitely not a field I am overly familiar with, and as some know, I am more a fan of abiotic origin of life (which, now that i think about it, this might be in support of), however...well, it is extraordinary evidence, and an extraordinary claim, so...maybe?
Comment icon #21 Posted by ShadowSot on 22 October, 2015, 0:40
Life just started sooner than they thought. Not surprised they could have been wrong to begin with. I always look at these numbers as a estimate. It always is, every paper comes with error bars that show the confidence they have in the findings. The more technology and findings improve, the better the confidence is.
Comment icon #22 Posted by Emma_Acid on 22 October, 2015, 9:11
This is all just hearsay and guess work! The theories and ideas about the origin of life change more than the weather! Personaly i take it all with a large helping of salt That's what science does - changes when new evidence comes to light. Who knows maybe god did! There's even less evidence for that.
Comment icon #23 Posted by Lucas Cooper Merrin on 22 October, 2015, 9:18
That's what science does - changes when new evidence comes to light. There's even less evidence for that. There is no evidence for any of it, just opinions on results.
Comment icon #24 Posted by Emma_Acid on 22 October, 2015, 10:28
There is no evidence for any of it, just opinions on results. Ah, the old "we just interpret the evidence differently" line. No, sorry. Evidence of an old, naturally forming earth is just that.
Comment icon #25 Posted by Lucas Cooper Merrin on 22 October, 2015, 10:37
Ah, the old "we just interpret the evidence differently" line. No, sorry. Evidence of an old, naturally forming earth is just that. There is no evidence that any of the methods used are accurate, but its all we currently have so its widely accepted to be correct...until a new method or theory poops up and supercedes the old antiquated ideas! This has been the way since the beginning of the civilised world. Knowledge and understanding are not a constant, they are a continually evolving process. You dont have to look that far back for evidence of this!
Comment icon #26 Posted by White Crane Feather on 22 October, 2015, 18:43
They have no clue how life starts so that can't really say anything about how likley it is. it could be 1 in 50 billion or 1 in 50 Google. Life May only happen about once in every 100,000 galaxies. Who the hell knows. It's clear that some envirnoment had the right ingrediants. I happen to have a peice of the of one of the rarest metorights on earth. A carbonatious conundrite. It's like a peice of charcole that was around before the the solar system formed. It already has many of the ingrediants for life. Mainly carbon. Life may have evolved in the previous solar system to ours. The sky is the ... [More]

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