Scientists to solve mystery of how life got going

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London, Jan 28 (UNI) Scientists may well be able to solve the mysetry of how life got going on Earth as they have found traces of life from billions of years ago which will help them discover the first living things on the planet.

The new method adds backing to the idea that Australia's stromatolites, first described almost three decades ago, are evidence of the first living things.

Stromatolites are distinctive structures that form in shallow oceans, lakes or streams where sediments form thin repeating layers.

Now, traces of microbes have been detected in the ancient rocks using special microscopy techniques able to study regions of the stromatolites down to dimensions of one billionth of a metre-- a nanometre.

Kevin Lepot of the Instutut de Physique du Globe de Paris and his colleagues there and in California studied stromatolites from the interior of Australia, which were formed 2.7 billion years ago and identified molecules and microscopic structures, including the oldest crystals of the mineral aragonite-- typically formed from the chalky shells of marine creatures-- found to date, that proved these rocks were associated with microbes.

The new technique should permit the detection of the oldest life on Earth, notably in remarkable rock formations in western Australia.

The research findings could help understand the environment in which early life emerged and evolved and also help in the search for evidence of life in the rocks of other planets, like Mars.

UNI XC SKB ND1620

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