The World’s Oldest Fossils? – #365papers – 2017 – 61

#365papers for February 2, 2017

Dodd, Papineau, Grenne, Slack, Rittner, Pirajno, O’Neil, and Little, 2017, Evidence for early life in Earth’s oldest hydrothermal vent precipitates: Nature, v. 543, p.60-64.

What’s it about?

This paper describes structures in a rock that lies somewhere in age between 4.28 billion years old and ~3.76 billion years old. (That’s a big range, but it’s an old rock!). The rock was almost certainly deposited in the ocean near hydrothermal activity. The structures appear to be very, very similar to those found in areas where life blossoms around deep-ocean hydrothermal vents.

Why does it matter?

If these are fossils of bacterial filaments associated with hydrothermal vents, they are the oldest body fossils found. The association with hydrothermal activity can help us better understand the origins of life on Earth, and can also help us know where to look as we seek life on other planets.

Why did I read this?

This paper was all over the interwebs last week. I felt obligated. There are some folks not terribly impressed with the interpretations of this paper, but as properly done science, there’s enough of the evidence presented here that others can understand why exactly the interpretations were made.

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