Organisms possibly 830 million years old have been found trapped in an ancient rock

A stunning discovery has just unveiled a potential new source for understanding life on old Earth.

A team of geologists has just discovered tiny remnants of prokaryotic life and algae – trapped in halite crystals that are 830 million years old.

Halite is sodium chloride, also known as rock salt, and the discovery suggests this natural mineral could be a previously untapped resource for studying ancient saltwater environments.

Also, the organisms trapped inside could still be alive.

The extraordinary study also has implications for the search for ancient life, not only on Earth but also in extraterrestrial environments, such as Marswo Large salt deposits have been identified as evidence of ancient and extensive liquid water reservoirs.

Living things don’t look the way you might expect. Ancient microfossils have been found compressed in rock formations such as shale, dating back billions of years. Salt is not able to preserve organic matter in the same way.

Alternatively, if crystals form in the salt water environment, small amounts of liquid can become trapped within. This is called liquid impurities, which are the remnants of the mother water from which halite crystallized.

This makes it of scientific value because it can contain information about water temperature, water chemistry and even atmospheric temperature at the time of metal formation.

Scientists have also found microorganisms living in both modern and modern environments where halite forms. These environments are highly saline. Microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi and algae have all been found to thrive in them.

In addition, microorganisms have been documented in liquid inclusions in gypsum and halite, mostly modern or modern, with a handful dating back to ancient times. However, the method used to identify these ancient creatures left some doubt as to whether they were of the same age as Halit.

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“That’s why there’s still a question among microbiologists,” Team Books It was led by West Virginia University geologist Sarah Schrader-Gomez. “What are the oldest chemical sedimentary rocks that contain prokaryotic and eukaryotic microorganisms from the sediment environment?”

Central Australia is now a desert, but was once an ancient salt sea. The brown formation It is a well-dated and distinct stratigraphic unit from central Australia, dating back to the Neolithic period. They include extensive halite indicative of a paleo-marine environment.

Using a core sample from the Brown Formation collected by the Western Australian Geological Survey in 1997, Schrader-Gomes and colleagues were able to study unaltered Neproterozoic halite using non-invasive optical methods. This left the halite intact. Which basically means everything had to be trapped inside when the crystals formed.

They used ultraviolet lithography and transmitted light, first at low magnification to identify halite crystals, and then at up to 2,000x magnification to study fluid inclusions within them.

Inside, they found organic solids and liquids that are compatible with prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells because of their size, shape, and UV flash.

The beam area was also interesting. Some samples showed colors consistent with organic decomposition, while others showed the same fluorescence seen in modern organisms, suggesting unmodified organic matter, the researchers say.

The researchers note that it is possible that some organisms are still alive. The liquid contents can serve as a micro-habitat where small colonies thrive. Living prokaryotes have been extracted from halite that is 250 million years old. Why not 830 million?

“The possible survival of microorganisms on geological time scales is not yet fully understood,” researchers wrote.

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“It was suggested that radiation would destroy organic material over long periods of time, but Nicastro et al. (2002) found that the 250-million-year-old buried halite was exposed to only trace amounts of radiation. In addition, microorganisms can survive in fluid inclusions through metabolic changes, including surviving starvation and cyst stages, and in coexistence with organic compounds or dead cells that can serve as food sources.”

This certainly has implications for Mars, the researchers said, where deposits with compositions similar to Brown’s can be found. Their research shows how these organisms can be identified without destroying or disturbing samples, which could give us a new set of tools to learn more about them — and also to better understand Earth’s history.

“Visual examination should be considered an essential step in any study of biosignatures in ancient rocks. It allows knowledge of the geological context of microorganisms prior to further chemical or biological analysis… and provides a target for such analysis.” Team Books.

“Paleochemical deposits, both terrestrial and extraterrestrial, should be considered as potential hosts for ancient microorganisms and organic compounds.”

The search was published in geology.



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