-A +A

Scottish fossils show new origins of life on land

Thursday, 14 April 2011

SEH Tutorial Fellow Martin Brasier has discovered ancient Scottish fossils that show life on land began far earlier than previously thought.

The rocks from around Loch Torridon in Wester Ross show a key moment in the history of life, when simple bacterial cells started to become more complex single cell algae that could reproduce and photosynthesise. Previous studies had dated the ‘sun and sex revolution’ on land as half a billion years ago. However the finely ornamented fossils show that the land was green with more larger more complex algae one billion years ago. Professor Martin Brasier, of Oxford University’s Department of Earth Sciences, said these complex cells led to vegetation like mosses and lichens 500 million years later. This allowed the first animals to emerge from the sea and develop into animals and eventually humans. ‘None of this would have been possible without advances long ago made by these little microbes, now entombed within phosphate from the Torridon lakes. It was arguably these organisms that helped to turn our landscape from a harsh and rocky desert into a green and pleasant place,’ he said.

Read more in the Daily Telegraph, and Science Daily