The research was supported by the FP7-PEOPLE-CIG grant no. 618657 to B.C., by NASA NAI-CAN7 16BB06I to S.L.C., and by the French National Research Agency ANR-15-IDEX-02 to A.S. and L.L. We are grateful to the CNES and ESRF facility (proposals ES108, ES231, and ES346). A portion of the research was performed using the EMSL (grid.436923.9), a DOE Office of Science User Facility sponsored by the Biological and Environmental Research program. This research received support from the Europlanet 2024 RI, which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research innovation programme grant no. 871149.
Trace fossils -- Biosignatures, Fossils -- Morphology, Stromatolites, Paleobiology
Subsurface habitats on Earth host an extensive extant biosphere and likely provided one of Earth’s earliest microbial habitats. Although the site of life’s emergence continues to be debated, evidence of early life provides insights into its early evolution and metabolic affinity. Here, we present the discovery of exceptionally well-preserved, ~3.42-billion-year-old putative filamentous microfossils that inhabited a paleo-subseafloor hydrothermal vein system of the Barberton greenstone belt in South Africa. The filaments colonized the walls of conduits created by low-temperature hydrothermal fluid. Combined with their morphological and chemical characteristics as investigated over a range of scales, they can be considered the oldest methanogens and/or methanotrophs that thrived in an ultramafic volcanic substrate.
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Cavalazzi, B., Lemelle, L., Simionovici, A., Cady, S. L., Russell, M. J., Bailo, E., ... & Hofmann, A. (2021). Cellular remains in a~ 3.42-billion-year-old subseafloor hydrothermal environment. Science Advances, 7(29), eabf3963.