Fossils from 1.6 billion years ago may be oldest-known plants | Reuters

By Will Dunham | WASHINGTON WASHINGTON Fossils unearthed in India that are 1.6 billion years old and look like red algae may represent the earliest-known plants, a discovery that could force scientists to reassess the timing of when major lineages in the tree of life first appeared on Earth.Researchers on Tuesday described the tiny, multicellular fossils as two types of red algae, one thread-like and the other bulbous, that lived in a shallow marine environment alongside mats of bacteria. Until now, the oldest-known plants were 1.2-billion-year-old red algae fossils from the Canadian Arctic.The researchers said cellular structures preserved in the fossils and their overall shape match red algae, a primitive kind of plant that today thrives in marine settings such as coral reefs but also can be found in freshwater environments. A type of red algae known as nori is a common sushi ingredient.'We almost could have had sushi 1.6 billion years ago,' joked Swedish Museum of Natural History geobiologist Therese Sallstedt, who helped lead the study published in the journal PLOS Biology.

Reuters March 15, 2017 01:09:03 IST
Fossils from 1.6 billion years ago may be oldest-known plants
| Reuters

Fossils from 16 billion years ago may be oldestknown plants
 Reuters

By Will Dunham
| WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON Fossils unearthed in India that are 1.6 billion years old and look like red algae may represent the earliest-known plants, a discovery that could force scientists to reassess the timing of when major lineages in the tree of life first appeared on Earth.Researchers on Tuesday described the tiny, multicellular fossils as two types of red algae, one thread-like and the other bulbous, that lived in a shallow marine environment alongside mats of bacteria. Until now, the oldest-known plants were 1.2-billion-year-old red algae fossils from the Canadian Arctic.The researchers said cellular structures preserved in the fossils and their overall shape match red algae, a primitive kind of plant that today thrives in marine settings such as coral reefs but also can be found in freshwater environments. A type of red algae known as nori is a common sushi ingredient."We almost could have had sushi 1.6 billion years ago," joked Swedish Museum of Natural History geobiologist Therese Sallstedt, who helped lead the study published in the journal PLOS Biology.

Earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago. There is evidence indicating life first appeared in the form of marine bacteria roughly 3.7 to 4.2 billion years ago. Only much later did plants and subsequently animals appear in the primordial seas."Plants have a key role for life on Earth, and we show here that they were considerably older than what we knew, which has a ripple effect on our appreciation of when advanced life forms appeared on the evolutionary scene," Sallstedt said.

The fossils were found in phosphate-rich sedimentary rocks from Chitrakoot in central India. The thread-like fossils contained internal cellular features including structures that appear to be part of the machinery of photosynthesis, the process used by plants to convert sunlight into chemical energy.Oxygen is a byproduct of photosynthesis and the advent of plants helped build the atmosphere's oxygen content.

The fossils also contained structures at the centre of each cell wall typical of red algae.At the time, Earth's land surfaces were largely barren, life was mainly microbial and atmospheric oxygen was at 1 to 10 percent of current levels, said study co-leader Stefan Bengtson, a Swedish Museum of Natural History paleobiologist.The fossils also represent the oldest-known advanced multicellular organisms in the broad category called eukaryotes that includes plants, fungi and animals, indicating complex life flourished much earlier than previously assumed, the researchers said. (Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

Guinea president 'captured', govt dissolved, claim army putschists'; attack on presidential palace repulsed, say authorities
World

Guinea president 'captured', govt dissolved, claim army putschists'; attack on presidential palace repulsed, say authorities

Reports suggest that they captured President Alpha Conde and dissolved the government, bust the ground situation remains unclear

Cryptocurrency prices tumble and exchange trading falters as snags crop up
News & Analysis

Cryptocurrency prices tumble and exchange trading falters as snags crop up

NEW YORK (Reuters) -The price of cryptocurrencies plunged and crypto trading was delayed on Tuesday, a day in which El Salvador ran into snags as the first country to adopt bitcoin as legal tender. Shares of blockchain-related firms also fell as crypto stocks were hit by trading platform outages. But the major focus was on El Salvador, where the government had to temporarily unplug a digital wallet to cope with demand.

Ford poaches Apple's car project chief Doug Field
News & Analysis

Ford poaches Apple's car project chief Doug Field

By Joseph White and Sanjana Shivdas (Reuters) -The head of Apple Inc's car project, Doug Field, is going to work for Ford Motor Co to lead the automaker's advanced technology and embedded systems efforts, a hiring coup for Ford Chief Executive Jim Farley.