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Scientists Discover 'Oldest Fossil Plants' Of Earth From 1.6 Billion Years Ago

16 March 2017, 6:44 am EDT By Andrew Norman Tech Times
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Scientists have discovered a fossil in India which they believe belongs to red algae and dates back 1.6 billion years ago. This is the oldest fossil belonging to a multi-cellular eukaryotic organism.  ( PLOS Biology )

A group of researchers at the Swedish Museum of Natural History have discovered a fossil of a plant, which is estimated to be 1.6 billion years old. It is believed that the fossil belong to a red algae from that period.

If what the scientists conclude is true, then this is the oldest fossil of a plant ever discovered. Previous findings have revealed plant fossils from 1.2 billion years ago and scientists had concluded that it was around that time period when complex plant like organisms started to evolve.

However, this recent discovery disproves the previous assumption and suggests that plants could have developed nearly 400 million years earlier than believed previously.

Red Algae

Scientists posit that the fossils discovered in India belongs to red algae as they were able to espy distinct cellular structure, along with bundles of packed and splaying filaments which are found in the particular organism.

"You cannot be a hundred per cent sure about material this ancient, as there is no DNA remaining, but the characters agree quite well with the morphology and structure of red algae," clarifies Stefan Bengtson who is the Professor emeritus of Palaeozoology at the Swedish Museum of Natural History.

Tree Of Life

The fossils which were found in Chitrakoot region of India were originally believed to have belonged to the Cambrian Period, which was around 540 million years ago. This is the time period when multicellular eukaryotic organisms were common.

However, through a process known as radiometric dating it was revealed that the sample was much older than anticipated and it actually belonged to the "Boring Billion" time period, which extends from 800 million to 1.8 billion years ago.

This process was challenging as there was a lack of fossils from this time period. However, Bengtson concluded that photosynthetic eukaryotic life had evolved much earlier than what the scientific community previously believed.

Palaeontologists from around the world appreciated these findings as they shed new light in the study of evolution of life forms.

"When we start using some of these techniques to look at slightly older or at least equivalent aged fossils, we might start to see that these things are more common than we previously thought," commented Glenn Brock, palaeobologist at the Macquarie University, on the fidnings of the study.

He also said that the advancement in technology has opened up new avenues to study fossils and make better assessment about the period it belonged to. He revealed that recent studies performed using biochemical techniques had even suggested that plant life may have been present as far back as 2.6 billion years ago.

The study on the fossil found in India has been published in PLOS Biology.

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