Menu

Life Before 4 Billion Years Ago?

A new estimate of the origin of life on Earth pushes back the date by 300 million years.

Oct 20, 2015
Jef Akst

FLICKR, BETH SCHUPHAMThe Earth formed approximately 4.6 billion years ago. And according to new research, life may have followed just a half a billion years later—300 million years earlier than previous estimates of life’s origins.

Mark Harrison of the University of California, Los Angeles, and his colleagues have suggested this new date based on bits of graphite, a crystalline form of carbon, which they discovered in zircon crystals from Jack Hills, Western Australia. The atoms within the graphite were enriched with 12C, giving the material a carbon isotope–ratio normally associated with living things. Harrison’s team published its results yesterday (October 20) in PNAS, arguing that they may suggest a terrestrial biosphere emerged on Earth as early as 4.1 billion years ago.

“This study extends the terrestrial carbon isotope record around 300m years beyond the previously oldest-measured samples from south-west Greenland,” the authors wrote in their paper. “A biogenic origin seems at least as plausible,” though they added that meteorite impacts and other nonbiological processes could have produced the 12C. Indeed, this is not the first time researchers have claimed to have discovered organic carbon in zircon crystals, and on previous occasions the carbon was found to be an artifact of preparation techniques, Harrison told New Scientist. “I think there will be little dispute regarding the primary nature of the inclusions.”

But the new work is certainly intriguing, the University of Colorado, Boulder’s Steve Mojzsis, who was not involved in the study, told New Scientist. “Harrison and his team have challenged us now to think deeply about just how ancient the biosphere could be and to find new ways to explore for a cryptic record of it.”

(Hat tip: The Guardian)

September 2018

The Muscle Issue

The dynamic tissue reveals its secrets

Marketplace

Sponsored Product Updates

Horizon Discovery introduces Myeloid DNA Reference Standard to support genetic testing of leukemia

Horizon Discovery introduces Myeloid DNA Reference Standard to support genetic testing of leukemia

Horizon Discovery Group plc, a global leader in gene editing and gene modulation technologies, today announced the launch of its Myeloid DNA Reference Standard. The first-to-market large cell-line derived myeloid cancer reference standard designed enables faster, more reliable and more cost-effective assay validation, to support the market in bringing routine testing into practice.

StemExpress LeukopakâNow Available in Frozen Format

StemExpress LeukopakâNow Available in Frozen Format

StemExpress, a Folsom, California based leading supplier of human biospecimens, announces the release of frozen Peripheral Blood Leukopaks. Leukopaks provide an enriched source of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) with low granulocyte and red blood cells that can be used in a variety of downstream cell-based applications.

New Antifade Mounting Media from Vector Laboratories Enhances Immunofluorescence Applications

New Antifade Mounting Media from Vector Laboratories Enhances Immunofluorescence Applications

Vector Laboratories, a leader in the development and manufacture of labeling and detection reagents for biomedical research, introduces VECTASHIELD® Vibrance™ – antifade mounting media that delivers significant improvements to the immunofluorescence workflow.

Best Practices for Sample Preparation and Lipid Extraction from Various Samples

Best Practices for Sample Preparation and Lipid Extraction from Various Samples

Download this white paper from Bertin Technologies to learn how to extract and analyze lipid samples from various models!