A geologist in India has found evidence of what is being called the "earliest forms of life" — two billion-year-old prokaryotic microfossils. The discovery was made in the central part of India by Naresh Ghose in the Gwalior basin of the Bundelkhand region, near the city of Jhansi. He reported his findings to the annual convention of the Indian Geological Congress, which was held at Nagpur recently.
Microfossils are considered to be one of the most important forms of fossils, reports Indian news outlet FirstPost. Such fossils are normally less than a millimetre in size and show the remains of bacteria, fungi, plankton and other such life forms.
The report notes that geologists came to the conclusion that their find was in fact remnants of early life on the planet after the shape and distribution of the microfossils "strongly supported the debris to be that of a micro-organism", Ghose said at the presentation.
An individual microfossil normally consist of an outer rim of quartz–recrystallised silica with a core that holds carbonates and a mixture of iron-bearing material, according to FirstPost. This is what Ghose found in the microfossil that he picked up when studying black carbonaceous shale in central India.
Incidence of primitive life in the shale coincides with the "Great Oxygenation Event", the report says. The event is regarded as the period in time when the Earth's atmosphere went on to become oxygen-rich. According to the prevailing theory, after oxygen became freely available, it kick-started the reactions that in turn led to the transformation of non-living chemicals into life as we know it, over time.
"The present study reports for the first time the presence of "organogenic" microfossils — derived from living organisms — in black shale immediately underlying the volcanic rock of the Gwalior basin," Ghose said. "Therefore, the microfossils (Prokaryotic-RNA cell) in the Gwalior basin may be regarded as the confirmed oldest existence of life dated about 2 billion years ago ever to be recorded from the Indian subcontinent," he added.
Ghose discovered the microfossils when studying sections of sediments containing black shale that was found to co-exist with limestone. They were river-borne and volcanic in origin.
He mentioned that the discovery was made without the help of any sophisticated instruments and that he only used a microscope for his research and study.
The finding of these microfossils have since been endorsed by leading palaeontologist Professor Jai Krishna of the Benaras Hindu University.