3.77 billion year old bacteria fossil may be Earth's oldest, scientists say

This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows spiral galaxy NCG 3274 located some 20 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Leo (The Lion).
This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows spiral galaxy NCG 3274 located some 20 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Leo (The Lion).

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, D. Calzetti

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, D. Calzetti

Researchers believe they have found proof of the oldest life on Earth -- bacteria that was living on rock formations 3.77 billion years ago.

Matthew S. Dodd, Dominic Papineau and other researchers at the University College London studied geological formations from the Nuvvuagittuq area near Quebec, Canada.

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The bacteria lived near hydrothermal vents on the sea floor that spewed hot, mineral rich water, researchers wrote in the study, "Evidence for Early Life in Earth's Oldest Hydrothermal Vent Precipitates," which was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

"It's exciting to find life had managed to get a grip and start to evolve on Earth so quickly after the planets formed," Dodd told USA Today. "It gives me … high hopes of finding life elsewhere in the universe."

 Researchers estimate the fossils to be between 3.77 to 4.28 billion years old.

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