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Australia Science

World's Oldest Fossils Found In Australia 85

Dexter Herbivore sends this quote from the Washington Post: "Scientists analyzing Australian rocks have discovered traces of bacteria that lived a record-breaking 3.49 billion years ago, a mere billion years after Earth formed. If the find withstands the scrutiny that inevitably faces claims of fossils this old, it could move scientists one step closer to understanding the first chapters of life on Earth. The discovery could also spur the search for ancient life on other planets. These traces of bacteria 'are the oldest fossils ever described. Those are our oldest ancestors,' said Nora Noffke, a biogeochemist at Old Dominion University in Norfolk who was part of the group that made the find and presented it last month at a meeting of the Geological Society of America."
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World's Oldest Fossils Found In Australia

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  • Re:Not interesting (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:00AM (#42448997)

    OK, so according to the summary there is 1000 million years between formation of Earth and theses fossils.
    Assuming that first life wasn't created before Earth or after these bacteria then the interesting timespan covers 20-30% of this time.
    Pretty good odds that this will tell us something about its evolution then.
    If the 200-300 million years for evolution are reasonably certain and the fossils turns out to be fully evolved then this will help us pinpoint when life first started evolving.
    I would say that regardless of the outcome Nora Noffke of Norfolk have some pretty interesting stuff here.

  • Re:Not interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:48AM (#42449179)

    Considering that bacteria replicate by cell division, how quickly they reproduce (a "Generation" can mean a few seconds, food provided) and that with every multiplication the chance for gene errors grow (especially with Prokaryotes, something this bacterium is almost certainly), and if you factor in the survival of the fittest theory, i.e. that bacteria with a beneficial mutation grow while the inferior ones (i.e. the older, not mutated) perish, I'd say the chance that this is even similar to current bacteria is VERY slim. It's the "prototype", it's closer to the point where everything started (because the superior mutations would have wiped out the inferior ones, which this bacterium almost certainly is).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @08:53AM (#42449431)

    The article contains the comment "Those are our oldest ancestors". That got me thinking... Since bacteria are asexual and reproduce by division then, technically, the ancestor of two bacteria was destroyed when it split into it's two children. If this is true then any fossilised bacteria must, since they are dead and in one piece not two, not have reproduced. If they didn't reproduce they can't be the ancestors of anything...

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