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Earliest fossils found in Australia, 3.4 bya

Strelley Pool Chert and Early Life

tubular fossils found at Strelley Pool,Western Australia

In “Fossil find shows Martian life possible” (ABC News, August 22, 2011), Kate Kelland reports that the world’s oldest fossils to date have been found in Australia, pretty accurately dated to about 3.4 billion years ago:

“We can be very sure about the age as the rocks were formed between two volcanic successions that narrow the possible age down to a few tens of millions of years,” he says. “That’s very accurate indeed when the rocks are 3.4 billion years old.”

The fossils appear to be extremophiles utilizing sulphur, thus able to cope with an almost oxygen-free environment.

An investigator, on early Earth:

“It’s a rather hellish picture,” he says. “Not a great place for the likes of us. But for bacteria, all of this was wonderful. In fact, if you were to invent a place where you wanted life to emerge, the early Earth is exactly right.”

Martin Brasier doesn’t explain why it’s exactly right, but the thought seems to be: If Mars is similarly hellish, there must be life there.

“Could these sorts of things exist on Mars? It’s just about conceivable. This evidence is certainly encouraging and lack of oxygen on Mars is not a problem,” says Martin Brasier of Oxford University, who worked on the team that made the discovery.

So now, hellish environments are sources of hope, not disappointment, when looking for life? Oh yes, of course, galaxy full of exoplanets teeming with life.

Significantly, no one addresses the true conundrum lurking in the find: How soon life got started after Earth cooled. Where is the window for random evolution?

File under: Hope clings eternal, with “The Shroud of Turin makes way more sense than water on Mars

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5 Responses to Earliest fossils found in Australia, 3.4 bya

  1. Another unaddressed mystery, that these ‘life on Mars’ puff pieces pass over, is that the long term presence of sulfate reducing bacteria on Earth is required to ‘detoxify’ the the crust of the Earth of poisonous levels of heavy metals to make the Earth fit for the long habitation of higher life-forms on the surface of the Earth. As well, Oxygen reacts with a wide range of elements, and is also shown to have had a long term presence on the early earth, reacting with the elements in the crust of the earth, before a ‘surplus’ of oxygen could finally be built up in the atmosphere. Moreover, Oxygen is required for the metabolism of higher life forms but is destructive to individual biological molecules as well as microbial lifeforms, which do not depend on oxygen metabolism for life, i.e. Why would the first life successfully evolve something that is of no immediate benefit to itself, but would only find practical benefit hundreds of millions of years later when the oxygenation of the earth was sufficient to allow the introduction of higher life forms which are dependent on sufficient oxygen levels for metabolism???;

    Microbial life can easily live without us; we, however, cannot survive without the global catalysis and environmental transformations it provides. – Paul G. Falkowski – Professor Geological Sciences – Rutgers

    notes:

    “Remarkably, the biosynthetic routes needed to make the key molecular component of anoxygenic photosynthesis are more complex than the pathways that produce the corresponding component required for the oxygenic form.”; – Fazale rana
    http://wwwold.reasons.org/reso.....plex.shtml

    When Did Life First Appear on Earth? – Fazale Rana – December 2010
    Excerpt: The primary evidence for 3.8 billion-year-old life consists of carbonaceous deposits, such as graphite, found in rock formations in western Greenland. These deposits display an enrichment of the carbon-12 isotope. Other chemical signatures from these formations that have been interpreted as biological remnants include uranium/thorium fractionation and banded iron formations. Recently, a team from Australia argued that the dolomite in these formations also reflects biological activity, specifically that of sulfate-reducing bacteria.
    http://www.reasons.org/when-di.....pear-earth

    U-rich Archaean sea-floor sediments from Greenland – indications of +3700 Ma oxygenic photosynthesis (2003)
    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2004E&PSL.217..237R

    New Wrinkle In Ancient Ocean Chemistry – Oct. 2009
    Excerpt: “Our data point to oxygen-producing photosynthesis long before concentrations of oxygen in the atmosphere were even a tiny fraction of what they are today, suggesting that oxygen-consuming chemical reactions were offsetting much of the production,”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....141217.htm

    Breathing new life into Earth: New research shows evidence of early oxygen on our planet – August 2011
    Excerpt: Waldbauer and Summons surmise that oxygen production and consumption may have occurred in the oceans for hundreds of millions of years before the atmosphere saw even a trace of the gas. They say that in all likelihood, cyanobacteria, blue-green algae living at the ocean surface, evolved the ability to produce O2 via sunlight in a process known as oxygenic photosynthesis. But instead of building up in the oceans and then seeping into the atmosphere, O2 may have been rapidly consumed by early aerobic organisms. Large oceanic and atmospheric sinks, such as iron and sulfide spewing out of subsea volcanoes, likely consumed whatever O2 was left over.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....xygen.html

    further notes:

    The role of bacteria in hydrogeochemistry, metal cycling and ore deposit formation:
    Textures of sulfide minerals formed by SRB (sulfate-reducing bacteria) during bioremediation (most notably pyrite and sphalerite) have textures reminiscent of those in certain sediment-hosted ores, supporting the concept that SRB may have been directly involved in forming ore minerals.
    http://www.goldschmidt2009.org...../A1161.pdf

    Bacterial Heavy Metal Detoxification and Resistance Systems:
    Excerpt: Bacterial plasmids contain genetic determinants for resistance systems for Hg2+ (and organomercurials), Cd2+, AsO2, AsO43-, CrO4 2-, TeO3 2-, Cu2+, Ag+, Co2+, Pb2+, and other metals of environmental concern.,, Recombinant DNA analysis has been applied to mercury, cadmium, zinc, cobalt, arsenic, chromate, tellurium and copper resistance systems.
    http://www.springerlink.com/co.....04577v8t3/

    Refutation Of Hyperthermophile Origin Of Life scenario
    Excerpt: While life, if appropriately designed, can survive under extreme physical and chemical conditions, it cannot originate under those conditions. High temperatures are especially catastrophic for evolutionary models. The higher the temperature climbs, the shorter the half-life for all the crucial building block molecules,

    The origin of life–did it occur at high temperatures?
    Excerpt: Prebiotic chemistry points to a low-temperature origin because most biochemicals decompose rather rapidly at temperatures of 100 degrees C (e.g., half-lives are 73 min for ribose, 21 days for cytosine, and 204 days for adenine).
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11539558

    Chemist explores the membranous origins of the first living cell:
    Excerpt: Conditions in geothermal springs and similar extreme environments just do not favor membrane formation, which is inhibited or disrupted by acidity, dissolved salts, high temperatures, and calcium, iron, and magnesium ions. Furthermore, mineral surfaces in these clay-lined pools tend to remove phosphates and organic chemicals from the solution. “We have to face up to the biophysical facts of life,” Deamer said. “Hot, acidic hydrothermal systems are not conducive to self-assembly processes.”
    http://currents.ucsc.edu/05-06/04-03/deamer.asp

  2. My prediction, however, is that the following:

    The fossils appear to be extremophiles utilizing sulphur, thus able to cope with an almost oxygen-free environment.

    will be taken as confirmation that oxygen, so inimical to origin-of-life models, was not a factor for this early life form.

  3. If a polyphyletic interpretation of the history of life on the planet earth is correct, then we can expect to find other sites around the world too. I’m guessing.

    This find does not necessarily confirm the monophyletic view of the history of life.

  4. There was comment in The New York Times, under the heading:

    Team Claims It Has Found Oldest Fossils
    By NICHOLAS WADE
    Published: August 21, 2011

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08.....ossil.html

    What I thought interesting was the comment here:

     Andrew H. Knoll, an earth scientist at Harvard, said in a brief e-mail from a Moscow airport that the researchers had not proved their point that the fossils, when alive, fed on sulfur compounds. But he did not take sides on the dispute between Dr. Brasier and Dr. Schopf.

    and of course, other comments in the article “conflicts” for one.

  5. I would also like to point out that on top of the fact that poisonous heavy metals on the primordial earth were brought into ‘life-enabling’ balance by complex biogeochemical processes, there was also an explosion of minerals on earth which were a result of that first life, as well as being a result of each subsequent ‘Big Bang of life’ there afterwards.

    The Creation of Minerals:
    Excerpt: Thanks to the way life was introduced on Earth, the early 250 mineral species have exploded to the present 4,300 known mineral species. And because of this abundance, humans possessed all the necessary mineral resources to easily launch and sustain global, high-technology civilization.
    http://www.reasons.org/The-Creation-of-Minerals

    “Today there are about 4,400 known minerals – more than two-thirds of which came into being only because of the way life changed the planet. Some of them were created exclusively by living organisms” – Bob Hazen – Smithsonian – Oct. 2010, pg. 54

    To put it mildly, this minimization of poisonous elements, and ‘explosion’ of useful minerals, is strong evidence for Intelligently Designed terra-forming of the earth that ‘just so happens’ to be of great benefit to modern man.

    Clearly many, if not all, of these metal ores and minerals laid down by these sulfate-reducing bacteria, as well as laid down by the biogeochemistry of more complex life, as well as laid down by finely-tuned geological conditions throughout the early history of the earth, have many unique properties which are crucial for technologically advanced life, and are thus indispensable to man’s rise above the stone age to the advanced ‘space-age’ technology of modern civilization.

    Metallurgy
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metallurgy

    Minerals and Their Uses
    http://www.scienceviews.com/geology/minerals.html

    Mineral Uses In Industry
    http://www.peterharben.com/ind.....s_uses.htm

    Inventions: Elements and Compounds – video
    http://videos.howstuffworks.co.....-video.htm

    Bombardment Makes Civilization Possible
    What is the common thread among the following items: pacemakers, spark plugs, fountain pens and compass bearings? Give up? All of them currently use (or used in early versions) the two densest elements, osmium and iridium. These two elements play important roles in technological advancements. However, if certain special events hadn’t occurred early in Earth’s history, no osmium or iridium would exist near the planet’s surface.
    http://www.reasons.org/Bombard.....onPossible

    Mineral
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mineral

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