Pages Navigation Menu

Science Writer and Editor

Life may have begun 300 million years earlier than we thought

Life may have begun 300 million years earlier than we thought

New Scientist

Image: Image Editor

Did life have hellish origins? Carbon with an organic-like signature has been discovered sealed within a crystal that formed during an interval of Earth’s history named after Hades, the underworld of Greek mythology. The find predates other evidence of life by 300 million years.

Our planet formed roughly 4.5 billion years ago, but it’s anyone’s guess exactly when life first appeared. The oldest reliable fossils are about 3.43 billion years old. Chemical signatures in even older rocks suggest life might have been present  3.8 billion years ago.

All of these early fossil signatures belong to the Archaean, which began 4 billion years ago. It is generally thought that conditions on Earth before then were so extreme that life wouldn’t have stood a chance of survival – which is why the pre-Archaean stage of Earth’s history has been dubbed the Hadean.

But Elizabeth Bell and Mark Harrison at the University of California, Los Angeles, and their colleagues think life might have existed in the Hadean after all. Read more on…