Life May Have Popped up on Earth 300m Years Earlier Than Thought

By Gary Cutlack on at

Post-construction earth was such a nice place to exist that life exploded into being almost instantly -- in interstellar terms -- with some scientists suggesting that the most primitive form of life appeared some 300 million years earlier than previously thought.

That would put the emergence of bobbling little microbe things to a timescale of around 4.1 billion years ago, and with the planet currently thought to be 4.54 billion years old it suggests life is even more keen to emerge and get going than previously thought. 

The science stuff behind the discovery involves tracking carbon deposits left inside zircon crystals. Through dating these, UCLA researchers found evidence of life in the presence of graphite with a ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-13 that's a clear fingerprint of being photosynthesised, and it could've started happening even quicker -- the zircon that contains them is 4.1 billion years old, so the carbon bits inside may be older still. 

Geochemist Mark Harrison from UCLA said: "Twenty years ago, this would have been heretical; finding evidence of life 3.8 billion years ago was shocking. Life on Earth may have started almost instantaneously. With the right ingredients, life seems to form very quickly." 

And it only takes 4.1 billion years for life to get bored of everything. [ET]