sciencehabit writes with news that UCLA scientists have found evidence that life likely existed on Earth at least 4.1 billion years ago, 300 million years earlier than previously thought. Science reports: "When did life on Earth begin? Scientists have dug down through the geologic record, and the deeper they look, the more it seems that biology appeared early in our planet's 4.5-billion-year history. So far, geologists have uncovered possible traces of life as far back as 3.8 billion years. Now, a controversial new study presents potential evidence that life arose 300 million years before that, during the mysterious period following Earth's formation. The clues lie hidden in microscopic flecks of graphite—a carbon mineral—trapped inside a single large crystal of zircon. Zircons grow in magmas, often incorporating other minerals into their crystal structures of silicon, oxygen, and zirconium. And although they barely span the width of a human hair, zircons are nearly indestructible. They can outlast the rocks in which they initially formed, enduring multiple cycles of erosion and deposition."
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