Microfossils on Mars? Maybe.

On Wednesday March 1st, CNN tweeted a video talking about newly discovered microfossils.  Of course this was something I was very interested in because it was a big find for environmental scientists.  These microfossils were found in Quebec City, Canada and are over 3.77 billion years old.  Not only were they the smallest ones ever discovered but also the oldest.  The Earth is roughly 4.5 billion years old, this means these organisms were around when the Earth was just beginning to form.  This could lead scientists to believe these microfossils are the remains of the oldest or even first living things on Earth.

This photo was taken by Matthew Dodd. The red is a haemitite attached to a clump of iron. These are the newly discovered microfossils found in Canada.
This picture, also taken by Dodd shows the microfossils in rock.

 

What are microorganisms?

 

The definition of a microorganism is: a microscopic organism, especially a bacterium, virus, or fungus.  These particular organisms are tiny tubes made or iron oxide (haematite), scientists describe it as rust like.  The microfossils are thought to be the remains of a bacteria that once thrived underwater.

 

What were the oldest microfossils discovered before these?

 

In Greenland rocks, microfossils like these were discovered and dated back to around 3.7 billion years ago, but are still considered younger than the new ones found in Quebec.  The microfossils discovered in Greenland were stromatolites.  These types of microbes can still be found today in a certain type of lagoons located around the world.

 

Before the Greenland microfossils were discovered, scientists found other younger ones in Australia dating only 3.5 billion years.  These were thought to be planktonic autotrophs, kind of like little tiny free-floating organisms that lived in the ocean.  Sort of like todays plankton.

 

This photo was taken by Christopher House. It shows a microscopic look at plankton like microfossils.  These were found in Australia.

 

To most people all of this information may just seem like useless knowledge.  But scientists are using their knowledge about these tiny little things to justify life on other planets!  All of these microorganisms survived in wet areas, and scientists know that Mars had water on it billions of years ago.

 

Now finding these microfossils on Earth was not easy, finding them on Mars with robotic technology would be much more difficult.  But with technology advancing every day, scientists never know what amazing discoveries are right over the horizon.  Hopefully some day in this blog I will be able to give you a whole post of information about life on Mars.

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