New research suggests life has existed on Earth for 300 million years longer than previously believed.
Scientists discovered evidence that microorganisms were present on Earth 4.1 billion years ago right after the formation of the planet, the University of California, Los Angeles reported.
"Twenty years ago, this would have been heretical; finding evidence of life 3.8 billion years ago was shocking," said Mark Harrison, co-author of the research and a professor of geochemistry at UCLA. "Life on Earth may have started almost instantaneously. With the right ingredients, life seems to form very quickly."
The findings suggest life survived the bombardment of the inner solar system that caused the craters on the moon. If the findings are true, it could mean the early Earth was not the "hellish" wasteland that has been previously suggested.
"If all life on Earth died during this bombardment, which some scientists have argued, then life must have restarted quickly," said Patrick Boehnke, a co-author of the research and a graduate student in Harrison's laboratory.
To make their findings, the researchers looked at over 10,000 minerals called zircons originally formed from molten rocks in Western Australia. These minerals capture and preserve their surrounding environments during formation, allowing them to act as "time capsules." The researchers analyzed 79 zircons containing dark specks using Raman spectroscopy and found one that contained carbon, which is a building block of life.
"There is no better case of a primary inclusion in a mineral ever documented, and nobody has offered a plausible alternative explanation for graphite of non-biological origin into a zircon," Harrison said.
The findings were published in a recent edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.