Scientists just found a 3.7 billion-year-old fossil on Earth, which could improve our odds for finding life on Mars

The search continues for life on Mars — but some new findings on Earth might have significantly improved our odds of finding something on the Red Planet.

Live Science reports that a new Nature study led by geologists at the University of Wollongong in Australia has discovered 3.7-billion-year-old rocks that may contain the oldest fossils of living organisms ever found on Earth. For the sake of comparison, this find will predate the previous record by 220 million years. If this turns out to be legit, it would indicate life on Earth appeared quickly (relatively speaking) after the planet was formed, at less than 1 billion years.

That’s a huge discovery in itself, but it also holds promise for the rest of our solar system. If an Earth rock could hold a fossil that old, the theory posits that Mars might also house fossils that old. If true, it could give us a peek at Mars long before it became the barren, red rock we know today.

“It’s pretty impressive that anything remotely like a stromatolite is being found [in these rocks],” Abigail Allwood, a geologist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (who was not involved in this study) said in a statement. “It’s another opportunity for us to sharpen our skills and develop rigorous techniques for the search for life.”

Scientists have long believed Mars used to be somewhat similar to Earth millions of years ago (at least similar enough that microbial life could’ve formed), and if there are ancient fossils hidden on the planet, there’s a chance a future rover (or astronauts!) could find it.

(Via Live Science)

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