Australia fossil to help in search for life on Mars
This fossil contains life forms believed to be 3.46 billion years old|
September 3, 1999
Web posted at: 4:18 p.m. EDT (2018 GMT)
(CNN) -- A discovery of the fossilized remains of the Earth's oldest lifeforms will help NASA in its search for life on Mars, scientists said Thursday.
The 1.25 meter, "egg carton" shaped rock, retrieved from the remote Australian outback in July, contains life forms believed to be 3.46 billion years old.
"They were the earliest life forms and probably the only form of life on Earth for the best part of two billion years," said Dr. Kath Grey of Macquarie University in New South Wales, a member of the team that discovered the fossil.
During that time, the landscape in Pilbara was a barren landscape of volcanoes and rock.
Grey said that while chemical traces of older organisms had been found in rocks in Greenland, this was the oldest solid evidence of biogenic structures in the world.
The cones in the rock were formed by fossilized layers of bacteria known as stromatolites -- prehistoric blue-green algae -- and were discovered wedged between layers of volcanic rock.
The discovery could provide the key not only to life on Earth but to the evolution of life on Mars.
NASA scientists have already examined the fossil and will be searching for similar structures of fossilized bacteria in Mars -- using the Pilbara rock as a guide -- when they mount the Mars Lander expedition in 2003.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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