In 2017, paleontologists found 3.75- to 4.28-billion-year-old microscopic filaments and tubes, which appeared to have been made by iron-loving bacteria, in rocks from the Nuvvuagittuq Supracrustal Belt in Québec, Canada. However, not all scientists agreed that these structures — dating about 300 million years earlier than what is more commonly accepted as the first sign of ancient life — were of biological origin. Now, after extensive further analysis of the Nuvvuagittuq rocks, the paleontologists have discovered a much larger and more complex structure — a stem with parallel branches on one side that is nearly 1 cm long — as well as hundreds of distorted spheres, or ellipsoids, alongside the tubes and filaments. While some of these structures could conceivably have been created through chance chemical reactions, the tree-like stem with parallel branches was most likely biological in origin, as no structure created via chemistry alone has been found like it. The new findings suggest that a variety of microbial life may have existed on primordial Earth, potentially as little as 300 million years after the planet formed.
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