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Biological Origin of Earliest Fossils Substantiated


UCLA paleobiologist J. William Schopf and colleagues have substantiated
the biological origin of the earliest known cellular fossils, which are
3.5 billion years old. The research is published in the March 7 issue of
the journal Nature. Schopf and a team of scientists at the University of
Alabama, Birmingham have devised a new technique using a unique
laser-Raman imaging system that enables them to look inside of rocks and
determine what they are made of, providing a molecular map.

This new technique is a tremendous breakthrough, and is something we have
sought for 25 years, Schopf said. Because Raman spectroscopy is
non-intrusive, non-destructive and particularly sensitive to the
distinctive carbon signal of organic matter of living systems, it is an
ideal technique for studies of ancient microscopic fossils. Raman imagery
can show a one-to-one correlation between cell shape and chemistry, and
prove whether fossils are biological.

Schopf and his colleagues applied the new technique to ancient fossil
microbe-like objects, including the oldest specimens reported from the
geological record.

There is no question at all that we have substantiated the biological
origin of the oldest fossils now known, Schopf said. We have established
that the ancient specimens are made of organic matter just like living
microbes, and no non-biological organic matter is known from the
geological record. In science, facts always prevail, and the facts here
are quite clear.