Scientists Discover Oldest Plant Fossil On Earth

Posted: Mar 15 2017, 4:45am CDT | by , Updated: Mar 15 2017, 4:53am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 

Scientists Discover Oldest Plant Fossil on Earth
X-ray image of fossil thread-like red algae. Credit: Stefan Bengtson
 

Researchers have uncovered fossil remains of 1.6 billion year old red algae and they could represent the oldest plant fossil ever found

In the sedimentary rocks of India, scientists have discovered fossil remains of 1.6 billion-year-old red algae, which may represent the oldest plant fossil ever found. The discovery also prompts researches to rethink the evolution of advanced multi cellular life.

The fossil remains were embedded inside the extremely well-preserved rocks of Chitrakoot, a district in central India and consist of two types of red algae: one thread-like and the other comprising of fleshy colonies. The overall shape and structure of fossil remains suggests that they belong to red algae, but researchers are unable to confirm their identity as both threads lack genetic information.

"You cannot be a hundred per cent sure about material this ancient, as there is no DNA remaining, but the characters agree quite well with the morphology and structure of red algae.” Stefan Bengtson from Swedish Museum of Natural History who led the team that made the discovery said in a statement.

The evolution of multicellular life is one of major evolutionary puzzles of our time. The earliest traces of life on Earth are at least 3.5 billion years old. Since single-celled organisms lack nuclei, large multicellular eukaryotic organisms could help better understand when advanced multicellular life emerged and reconstruct the tree of life. 

Eukaryotes were common on Earth around 600 million years ago, near the transition to the Phanerozoic Era. The previous oldest known red algae were 1.2 billion years old. If confirmed, the latest discovery could break the record of oldest plant-like fossil ever found on Earth by approximately 400 million years. Today, these kinds of plants thrive in marine settings such as coral reefs and also in freshwater environments.

Therese Sallstedt of the Swedish Museum of Natural History says. “They show us that advanced life in the form of eukaryotes (like plants, fungi and us humans/animals) have a much deeper history on Earth than what we previously have thought.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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