News of the WeekPaleontology

Earliest Signs of Life Just Oddly Shaped Crud?

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Science  08 Mar 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5561, pp. 1812
DOI: 10.1126/science.295.5561.1812

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A claim for the oldest known fossils-fossils that have entered textbooks as the oldest ever found-is under attack as a misinterpretation of intriguingly shaped but purely lifeless minerals. A paper in this week's issue of Nature argues that the microscopic squiggles in a 3.5-billion-year-old Australian chert are not fossilized bacteria, as was claimed in a 1993 Science paper, but the curiously formed dregs of ancient hot-spring chemistry.