Publication in partnership with LGL-TPE in the journal Science Advances on July 14, 2021.
Subsurface habitats on Earth host an extensive extant biosphere and likely provided one of Earth’s earliest microbial habitats. Although the site of life’s emergence continues to be debated, evidence of early life provides insights into its early evolution and metabolic affinity. Here, we present the discovery of exceptionally well-preserved, ~3.42-billion-year-old putative filamentous microfossils that inhabited a paleo-subseafloor hydrothermal vein system of the Barberton greenstone belt in South Africa. The filaments colonized the walls of conduits created by low-temperature hydrothermal fluid. Combined with their morphological and chemical characteristics as investigated over a range of scales, they can be considered the oldest methanogens and/or methanotrophs that thrived in an ultramafic volcanic substrate.
Source: Cellular remains in a ~3.42-billion-year-old subseafloor hydrothermal environment. B. Cavalazzi, L. Lemelle, A. Simionovici, S. L. Cady, M. J. Russell, E. Bailo, R. Canteri, E. Enrico, A. Manceau, A. Maris, M. Salomé, E. Thomassot, N. Bouden, R. Tucoulou et A. Hofmann. Science Advances, 2021.