A team of scientists has discovered evidence that life on Earth may be much older than thought. Just in case we wish to celebrate the birthday, the cake would have to hold nearly 4.1 billion candles.
A team of geologists at UCLA revealed in a paper published online on Tuesday that they have discovered a carbon sample that may be the earliest trace of life ever found.
As per the prevailing theory, life started about 3.8 billion years ago, but the potentially 'biogenic' carbon was 4.1 billion years old. The carbon has been described as 'biogenic' carbon because the carbon discovered by them was a particular isotope generally linked to living things).
Researchers said they sorted through over 10,000 zircons from Western Australia, while looking for crystals that could contain dark specks, which might be carbon. They analyzed 79 zircons out of a potential 656 zircons with dark spots, and found that just one actually had carbon.
Researchers need a lot of more data before coming to a conclusion over whether or not the carbon was from Earth's earliest known living thing or not.
In an email to The Huffington Post, Mark Harrison, a co-author of the study and a professor of geochemistry at UCLA, said, "We figure such a dataset could be obtained for $15 million or about 3% of the cost of a typical NASA planetary mission".
In case it gets confirmed that the carbon was discovered inside of an ancient zircon crystal, the finding would push back the date for life on Earth nearly 300 million years.