The oldest fossils known to date have been discovered in 3.7 billion-year-old rocks in Greenland by an Australian-led team of researchers, according to a paper published in Nature.
The discovery of the fossilized bacterial communities, known as stromatolites, could be the first clear biological evidence of the earliest known life on Earth.
Before this find, the earliest accepted evidence for life were 3.48 billion-year-old fossil stromatolites from the Pilbara region in Western Australia.
Lead author Professor Allen Nutman of the University of Wollongong has been investigating ancient rock formations in the Isua Supercrustal Belt in south-west Greenland for more than 30 years.
The rocks were known to contain a unique carbon signature, but until now, it was unclear whether the signature had been created by ancient life forms or changes in the rock caused by heat and pressure.
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