The fossils of 3.4-billion-year-old microbes that used sulphur compounds for energy have been found in rocks from Western Australia, reports a paper published online in Nature Geoscience.
David Wacey, Martin Brasier and colleagues analysed microstructures present in rocks from the Strelley Pool Formation in Western Australia, and determined that they were the fossils of ancient microbes. The fossils were associated with tiny crystals of pyrite — a mineral composed of iron and sulphur. The isotopic composition of the sulphur suggests that the pyrite was formed as a by-product of cellular metabolism based on sulphate and sulphur.
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