Scientists from UCLA and the University of Colorado recently made a discovery that has led them to believe that life may have existed on Earth earlier than they initially thought.
Based on fossils that were recently found, scientists now have reason to believe that life existed on Earth as far back as 4.1 billion years ago. That is 300 million years earlier than when most scientists say life on our planet originated. At that time, Earth was nothing more than a volcano-filled planet.
This new discovery changes the way that scientists view Earth, and it also presents the possibility that life might be more common throughout the universe because it seems to initiate very quickly.
For the record, scientists believe that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old. To produce life in just 400 million years is said to be extremely impressive.
The scientists were searching in Western Australia when they found tiny grains of the mineral known as zircon. They conducted research on the zircon to find that they were 4.1 billion years old. Inside one of the grains, they found a “chemo-fossil”, which is a certain mixture of carbon isotopes. Their findings were published in a journal from the National Academy of Sciences.
Co-author of the study and UCLA professor Mark Harrison explained, “Think of it as "the gooey remains of biotic life or anything more complicated."
Carbon comes in various forms and it has differing weights. The type of carbon that was found in the zircon is a less heavy type of carbon that is typically found in remnants of life. While it’s possible that the carbon remnants could come from non-living sources, the scientists say that such an occurrence would be very unlikely.
According to Professor Harrison, the carbon most likely came from a colony of some sort of microscopic organisms.
In the past, scientists hypothesized that the Earth had too much volcanic activity 4.1 billion years ago in order to support life. Scientists had claimed that there would not have been enough water on the planet to allow life to exist. However, this new finding suggests that the young Earth was behaving much like it is today.
University of Colorado Scientist Stephen Mojzsis, who was also a member of the research team is extremely excited by the finding.
"This is what transformative science is all about. If life is responsible for these signatures, it arrives fast and early,” he said.