The oldest known fossils ever known have recently been discovered and scientists are giddy. Researchers believe that the fossils, discovered, ironically, because global warming melted some long-frozen snow in Greenland, could be the fossilized remains of ancient bacteria. If they are correct, the newly discovered fossils would be fully 220 million years older than anything else ever uncovered.
— newsAnglr Science (@scienceanglr) September 3, 2016
These newly discovered fossils, the oldest ever known to be found, could represent bacteria that was among the first ever life on Earth, reports NBC News.
If researchers are correct, these oldest known fossils discovered in Greenland are the ancient ancestors of stromatolites, which have been found in Australia.
The discovery of these oldest known fossils was made in, obviously, incredibly ancient rock. Such samples are rarely discovered, because ancient rock is usually nonexistent or close to it. The Earth recycles itself constantly, and ancient rock is often eroded away and/or pushed down far enough in the Earth’s crust to once again become part of the mantle.
According to the scientists who discovered and have researched these oldest known fossils, they are very similar in structures to the stromatolites of Australia. As such, they are not actually fossils of bacteria itself, but the fossilized remains of the formations that the 3.7 billion-year-old bacteria would have made. Scientists believe that these newly discovered fossils, which are now the oldest ever known to be found, were single-celled organisms that colonized together.
— OSC Summer STEM (@OSC_SummerSTEM) September 1, 2016
When the bacteria, now only depicted in these oldest known fossils, bunched together in the billions and billions, they would have formed a “mat,” in the same way certain modern bacteria do when they form colonies.
As National Geographic reports, these oldest known fossils, discovered in Greenland, were only found because of increasing climate change. They were uncovered because Greenland is increasingly warming, and their discovery was only made possibly due to the effects of global warming. While the discovery of the world’s oldest known fossils might put climate change in a somewhat positive light, scientists are actually becoming increasingly concerned by melting permafrost and glaciers.
@NatGeo Hmm…Perhaps old viruses, bacterium &diseases from ancient times? Can't wait for the pandemics from under the melting permafrost!
— ingy belle (@ingy_belle) September 1, 2016
— betty may davis (@boogerbearbetty) September 3, 2016
— very average scream (@scarpelos) August 31, 2016
@time The vastness of the universe alone is enough to convince us. Science proved that we live among bacteria we can't see with naked eyes
— shzat palana (@ShzatP) August 31, 2016
When long-frozen soil and the like is thawed, bacteria and viruses long-dead can be reactivated. In fact, scientists blame a recent Anthrax outbreak on global warming. They believe that locals became exposed to the deadly bio-hazard when a long-frozen reindeer herd thawed.
Before these new oldest known fossils were discovered, the oldest fossils ever discovered were 3.48 billion years old, and discovered in Western Australia. They, too, were stromatolites.
According to evolutionary scientists and biologists, there is direct genetic evidence to suggest that life on Earth most likely started roughly 4 billion years ago — just half a billion years after the Earth is believed to have been formed. Now that the oldest known fossils have been discovered, scientists believe that they have gotten their hands on unequivocal signs of life from very close to the Earth’s infancy.
These oldest known fossils were found near Greenland’s ice cap, in the Isua Greenstone Belt, which also happens to be the home of the oldest known sedimentary rocks in the world.
— Uncommon Raven (@Hrafnheidur) September 3, 2016
The discovery of the Earth’s oldest known fossils could have widespread repercussions in numerous fields of scientific study. NASA scientists and others are looking for structures precisely like the ones formed from the Earth’s oldest known fossils when they search the red planet for signs of life.
If bacterial life ever existed on Mars, it would likely look almost identical to the recently discovered oldest known fossils on Earth. According to researchers, when they were alive, the bacteria that left behind the oldest known fossils ever discovered on the planet would have lived in warm, shallow water, an environment very similar to what scientists believe a young Mars would have exhibited.
“It points to a rapid emergence of life on Earth and supports the search for life in similarly ancient rocks on Mars.”
Researchers and scientists expect more enticing secrets to be discovered now that global warming is becoming more prevalent. As glaciers and permafrost disintegrate, an unknown array of hidden treasures is likely to be uncovered and discovered.
— Engadget (@engadget) September 1, 2016
According to scientists, ice melt hit its fastest-ever-recorded rate in 2015, a trend that is fully expected to continue. It is believed that if the rate of current climate change and global warming remains the same, the Arctic could be over 30 degrees hotter by 2300, effectively reverting back to the climate of 52 million years ago.
“In other words, the Earth would be so warm that palm trees could grow in Alaska and crocodiles could swim in the Arctic Ocean.”
Between now and then, however, scientists are excited to learn what else may be discovered, in addition to the Earth’s oldest known fossils, as the ice retreats.
[Image via Shutterstock]