World’s Oldest Fossils Found in Greenland
It is well known that climate change makes our planet dangerously warmer, which causes the ice to slowly melt and different areas to disappear due to flooding. This sounds terrifying, but let us consider what might be the only “positive side” of climate change. Ironically, the global warming may expose ancient treasures and make fossils out of many of today’s living things.
Consequently, new technology is allowing scientists to better look at what is under the ice to uncover new clues for science. The latest discovery was an estimated 3.7 billion years old fossils, which pushes back evidence of life on earth by about 220 million years. The new fossils were found in Greenland. It is located in the continent of North America and is a dependent territory of Denmark.
Therefore, if confirmed, this find would make these fossils the oldest on Earth and support the theory that life began in just a blink of an eye when our planet was still very hot and was being bombarded by destructive asteroids suffering from an atmosphere full of methane and ammonia with no free oxygen. This discovery may change scientific understanding of the origins of life on Earth.
Led by the University of Wollongong’s Professor Allen Nutman in Australia, the fossils were found in the world’s oldest sedimentary rocks. For the inexperienced eyes, the new found remains look like an ordinary layer of rock, but, described on Wednesday in the journal Nature, the new fossils are thought to be stromatolites.
It is a large formation of rocks that have been formed by the busywork of countless microorganisms. These microbes thrived in a shallow sea water, probably quite close to a shoreline, bathing a still young and fresh Earth over a very long period of time.
However, the scientific team knows nothing of the stromatolite’s origins and the identity of whatever was living 3.7 billion years ago is obscured by the altered state of rock from that era, which has been twisted over time. Some scientists may argue that the intense metamorphic conditions could have deformed the rock, but researchers are confident. In fact, more study of the stromatolite is necessary to confirm the identity of the fossil, says Abigail Allwood author of an accompanying analysis for Nature.
Nonetheless, it is a very exciting find, and if it is confirmed, this week’s latest discovery is another reminder of the importance of ancient treasures that are likely to be uncovered as glaciers and sea ice melt in a warming earth. It also allows us to have a much better view to look back in time and a possible clue on how life can get a foothold in such a short time frame.