Significance of the Schopf locality

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This is a transcript of a QuickTime movie (7.2 MB) recorded in the Pilbara in 2005. Professor malcolm Walter, from the Australian Centre for Astrobiology at Macquarie University, discusses the significance of the Schopf locality and the evidence for life at 3.5 billion years.


Just how important is that bit of rock we’ve been standing around for the past hour down there, in terms of the history of early life?

It’s played a critical part in the interpretations that people talk about now. It’s text book stuff now and has been for a few years. But it’s important to remember it’s not the only evidence of life in rocks of about this age. We have numerous stromatolites that we’re going to debate over the next few days and we have chemical information as well. So it’s one piece of information. It was thought to be the most compelling piece of information by Bill Schopf and some others and so it has played a major role in all discussions since the work was first published in 1993 in a Science paper anyway. So it’s a most prominent piece of information in many people’s minds and that gives it added importance. But it is not the only part of the story. Even if this were proven to be quite wrong, then we would still have evidence of life at 3.5 billion years.

What would the 3.5.billion year life evidence be?

There’d be the stromatolites, which many consider, including myself, to have been formed by microbial mats. We don’t know much about what sort of microbes they would have been but we’re confident, some of us, that there were microbial slimes on the sea floor and lake floors and in volcanic calderas and we have chemical evidence that the degraded organic matter that’s found in these rocks was originally part of microbes.




Early Life



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