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Then even if this is the case, there’s also the matter of whether or not the life is as old as the surrounding rocks. The rocks they found the samples in are metamorphic, meaning they’ve been subjected to a lot of pressure and heat these past four billion years, and it’s not impossible for external graphite to have sneaked in from different, more recent rocks. So before we get overly excited there are still matters which need to be cleared about this study.

As far back as we can look

But if the findings are confirmed, then it would be an incredible testament to life’s resilience. Not only going back to an ungodly time in our planet’s history but going back pretty much as far as we can look for.

A microscopic image of the globular shape produced by the graphite grains. (Image: Tsuyoshi Komiya, The University of Tokyo).

“The emerging picture from the ancient-rock record is that life was everywhere,” says Vickie Bennett from Australian National University, who was not involved in the latest study, according to The Atlantic. “As far back as the rock record extends—that is, as far back as we can look for direct evidence of early life, we are finding it. Earth has been a biotic, life-sustaining planet since close to its beginning.”

Prior to this, the earliest discovered life was dated to 3.7 billion years ago. While the difference might not seem that large, it’s quite significant. The reason is that 3.95 billion years ago is during the so-called Late Heavy Bombardment, during which a disproportionately large number of asteroids colliding with Earth, whereas 3.7 is not.

“It may be difficult to create life before 3.8bn years ago due to the bombardment, which may destroy early life,” he said. “But now it is 4bn years. Life started on Earth during the heavy bombardment of meteorites, which is amazing.”

Journal Reference: Takayuki Tashiro et al. Early trace of life from 3.95 Ga sedimentary rocks in Labrador, Canadadoi:10.1038/nature24019