Alga-Like Forms in Onverwacht Series, South Africa: Oldest Recognized Lifelike Forms on Earth

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Science  06 Sep 1968:
Vol. 161, Issue 3845, pp. 1005-1008
DOI: 10.1126/science.161.3845.1005


Spheroidal and cupshaped, carbonaceous alga-like bodies, as well as filamentous structures and amorphous carbonaceous matter occur in sedimentary rocks of the Onverwacht Series (Swaziland System) in South Africa. The Onverwacht sediments are older than 3.2 eons, and they are probably the oldest, littlealtered sedimentary rocks on Earth. The basal Onverwacht sediments lie approximately 10,000 meters stratigraphically below the Fig Tree sedimentary rocks, from which similar organic microstructures have been interpreted as alga-like microfossils. The Onverwacht spheroids and filaments are best preserved in black, carbonrich cherts and siliceous argillites interlayered with thick sequences of lavas. These lifelike forms and the associated carbonaceous substances are probably biological in origin. If so, the origins of unicellular life on Earth are buried in older rocks now obliterated by igneous and metamorphic events.

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