This 3.7 billion-year-old fossil may be the oldest on Earth.
A group of Australian geologists have announced the discovery of what may be the oldest recorded fossil 3.7 billion years old. The material was found in the Isua region of Greenland, a location so remote that it could only be accessed by helicopter.
By then, the earliest known fossils were about 3.5 billion years old and had been found in western Australia. Like the one discovered in Greenland, they were formed by the accumulation of microorganisms on the seabed.
However, despite the discovery, the team believes that even older materials can be found in this region of the world. The group, led by geologist Allen Nutman of Woollongong University, assumes that these microorganisms have even more primitive ancestors that may have lived about 4 billion years ago.
Researchers Allen Nutman and Vickie Bennet with 3.7 billion year fossil
What does this discovery mean?
If the finding is accepted by the scientific community, it may indicate that life on Earth would have appeared just over 500 million years after the planet's formation. That could mean an increased chance of finding similar fossils on Mars, where liquid water also existed 3.7 million years ago.
To find the age of the fossil, scientists used the radiometric dating procedure, which measures the amount of energy emitted by radioactive elements to calculate the age of a rock.
The only sad part of this discovery is that it was only possible because of part of Greenland's ice melting, which may have been caused by global warming or a few snowfalls last winter, according to Nutman.