Fossils are relics left behind by time; they're alone and forgotten in places where even mother nature doesn’t get a chance to wash them away. Fortunately for scientists, that's a good thing.
While experts have found tons of animal-based fossils, ranging from birds, to reptiles, to amphibians (many of which are claimed to be some of the oldest-known), there’s currently a new fossil on the block that’s getting all the attention right now.
Image Credit: Stefan Bengtson
This particular discovery, which was made possible by Swedish researchers, is nothing short of interesting. At 1.6 billion years old, it's believed to be the oldest-known plant-like fossil ever discovered on record. The latest discovery pre-dates the previous record-holder by at least 400 million years.
The findings appear in the journal PLOS Biology.
“From what we know today, these are the oldest red algae ever found,” said study co-author Therese Sallstedt of the Swedish Museum of Natural History. "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."
The fossils, which are virtually microscopic in size, were discovered in India. They appear to be of a type of ancient red algae, although not much is yet known about it. Nevertheless, the age of the fossil suggests that this kind of algae existed long before we originally thought possible, and this means it existed alongside some of the Earth's earliest simple life forms.
While it wasn’t easy to determine that the fossils could possibly be this old, it was certainly jaw-dropping when the results were realized. Some of Earth’s earliest life dates back 3.5 billion years ago,
Just as we thought we were beginning to understand our planet and where all of its diverse life forms came from, this new research scraps our ideas and forces us to start over again.
It should be interesting to see what the next major fossil discovery will be, and moreover, how many more scientific theories it will put to rest. With every question that gets answered, it seems a truckload more take its place.