Monday, 28 November 2011

Oldest Hairy Microbe Fossils Discovered

Ancient rock deposits, laid down between two massive ice ages, reveal the oldest known fossils for two types of single-celled creatures: Tube-shelled foraminifera and hairy, vase-shape ciliates.
Both closely resemble microbes living today. But the climate they lived in may have been quite different. The fossils appear in limestone deposited on the ocean floor between 635 million and 715 million years ago. This period was marked by two "Snowball Earth" events, when ice may have covered the entire planet.

These fossils date back more than 100 million years earlier than the oldest foraminifera and ciliates previously known. Even so, scientists think these organisms were around much longer, based on changes accumulated in their DNA since they split from close relatives. Some believe these types of single-celled creatures have been around for considerably more than 1 billion years, said Tanja Bosak, a study researcher and assistant professor of geobiology at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology.

Read more here ...

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