SYDNEY, May 10 (Xinhua) -- It appears that life on the Earth may date back to more than 3 billion years ago, Australian researchers revealed on Wednesday.
Fossil evidence of early life has been discovered by University of New South Wales geologists in 3.48 billion year old hot spring deposits in Western Australia's remote Pilbara region.
"Microbes are a very simple microscopic organisms, far from complex life," lead researcher Tara Djokic explained to Xinhua Wednesday.
"But this may have implications for the origin of life in freshwater hot springs on land, rather than the more widely discussed idea that life developed in the ocean and adapted to land later."
Djokic said it was fortuitous that she was able to find the rock sample that gave the indication that hot springs existed much further than previously thought.
"At the time I didn't know what I had until I looked at it under the microscope," Djokic said.
"We knew it was a volcanic setting, an ancient volcano, but there wasn't a clear distinction that life was feeding off the volcanic energy of the hot springs."
"We found three locations in 14 km of land that show these hot springs existed."
What Djokic actually discovered was stromatolites-layered rock structures created by communities of ancient microbes.
These biological signatures look like well preserved bubbles in the rock and reveal microbial activity.
"It's something that forms in and around the edges of the hot spring pool," Djokic said.
"You only find it in hot spring environments, so it's like a smoking gun!"
The find offers a geological perspective on the origins of life and holds significant value for scientist searching for life on other planets.
"There is an upcoming mission to the Mars in 2020, where a rover is being sent to three potential landing sites and one of them is a hot spring environment around the same age as the early earth," Djokic said.
In the future, Djokic plans to continue her research in the region.
"Maybe are there any unidentified things we might be able to find, I'm looking at building a depository of evidence for life's origins."