Life on Earth: Quicker Start Than Thought?

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, Nov. 11 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they’ve discovered Earth’s climate was much cooler than thought billions of years ago, which may mean life developed earlier than thought.

Researchers from Texas A&M, Yale and Stanford universities say their findings could change current ideas about the formation of the earliest life on the planet. The scientists say they’ve determined the Earth’s climate was perhaps more than 50 degrees cooler than thought billions of years ago. That means conditions for life were much easier, and that life existing at that time was not under as much stress as previously believed.

Texas A&M geobiologist Mike Tice said the team examined rocks from South Africa that are known to be about 3.4 billion years old — among the oldest ever discovered. They found features in the rocks consistent with formation at water temperatures significantly lower than previous studies suggested.

“Our research shows the water temperature 3.4 billion years ago was at most 105 degrees, and while that’s potentially very warm, it’s far below the temperatures of 155 degrees or more that previous research has implied,” Tice said. “It means more organisms may have been around that were not necessarily heat-loving ones.”

The study appears in the journal Nature.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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