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Res Microbiol. 2003 Nov;154(9):611-7.

Archean microfossils: a reappraisal of early life on Earth.

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  • 1Centre Biophysique Moleculaire (Exobiologie), CNRS, Rue Charles-Sadron, 45071 OrlĂ©ans, France.


The oldest fossils found thus far on Earth are c. 3.49- and 3.46-billion-year-old filamentous and coccoidal microbial remains in rocks of the Pilbara craton, Western Australia, and c. 3.4-billion-year-old rocks from the Barberton region, South Africa. Their biogenicity was recently questioned and they were reinterpreted as contaminants, mineral artefacts or inorganic carbon aggregates. Morphological, geochemical and isotopic data imply, however, that life was relatively widespread and advanced in the Archean, between 3.5 and 2.5 billion years ago, with metabolic pathways analogous to those of recent prokaryotic organisms, including cyanobacteria, and probably even eukaryotes at the terminal Archean.

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