Technology

Scientists confirm Earth's earliest mobile organisms existed 2.1 billion years ago


Scientists have discovered in 2.1-billion-year-old black shale from a quarry in Gabon the earliest evidence of a revolutionary development in the history of life on Earth, the ability of organisms to move from one place to another on their own.


The researchers on Monday described exquisitely preserved fossils of small tubular structures created when unknown organisms moved through soft mud in search of food in a calm and shallow marine ecosystem.


The fossils dated back to a time when Earth was oxygen-rich and boasted conditions conducive to simple cellular life evolving more complexity, they said.


“What matters here is their astonishing complexity and diversity in shape and size, and likely in terms of metabolic, developmental and behavioural patterns, including the just-discovered earliest evidence of motility, at least for certain among them,” said paleobiogeochemist and sedimentologist Abderrazak El Albani of the University of Poitiers in France.


“Life during the so-called Paleoproterozoic Era, 2.5 to 1.6 billion years ago, was not only bacterial, but more complex organisms had emerged at some point, likely only during some phases and under certain environmental circumstances,” El Albani said.


The evolutionary experimentation with motility may have encountered a setback relatively soon after the Gabon organisms lived because of a dramatic drop in atmospheric oxygen 2.08 billion years ago.






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