March 30, 2017

World’s oldest plant fossil discovered in India

World’s oldest plant fossil discovered in India

In a path-breaking discovery, a team of researchers have excavated fossils in the sedimentary rocks of India that date back to almost 1.6 billion years. This discovery will represent the oldest plant fossil ever found and thus prompts researchers to question the evolution of advanced multicellular life on Earth. It has been revealed that the earliest traces of life on Earth are at least 4 billion years old. The discovery of the plant fossil was made in the sedimentary rocks of Chitrakoot. Chitrakoot is a fossil-rich region in Uttar Pradesh.

Reports confirmed that the oldest known red algae were 1.2 billion years old. If the recent discovery is to be believed, the latest discovery could break the record of the oldest plant-like fossil on Earth. Till now, the oldest known multicellular plant fossils were discovered in the Canadian Arctic and consisted of red algae. The shape and structure of fossil remains reveal that they belong to red algae, which are known for their unique biodiversity.  The red algae thrive in freshwater habitats as s such as barrier reefs.

The discovery of the fossils has shown similarity to the present day algal members. It includes the presence of cell wall, components that carry out chemical photosynthesis. However, researchers are not able to confirm the identity of the fossils as both threads lack genetic information. Scientists and researchers have often debated on the question on how and when life began on Earth and they have agreed to the fact that large multicellular organisms became common about 600 million years ago.

Stefan Bengtson from Swedish Museum of Natural History said, “You cannot be a hundred percent sure about material this ancient, as there is no DNA remaining, but the characters agree quite well with the morphology and structure of red algae.” Bengtson led the team of scientists who made the discovery. “They show us that advanced life in the form of eukaryotes (like plants, fungi and us humans/animals) have a much deeper history on Earth than what we previously have thought”, said Therese Sallstedt of the Swedish Museum of Natural History.

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