A group of geologists has just made the startling discovery of minuscule traces of bacterial/prokaryotic and algal life that have been preserved within halite crystals or enhydro agates that date back 830 million years.
Organisms found through microscopic examination
Enhydro agates are kinds of rocks, nodules, or geodes with water trapped inside them. The same thing I think so was discovered by geologists that have ancient water has been trapped in these rocks for millions of years.
The discovery suggests that halite, which is sodium chloride and is also known as rock salt, could be a resource for the study of ancient saltwater habitats that had not been utilized before.
Rock salt is another name for sodium chloride.
In addition to this, it is possible that the creatures that have become imprisoned within it are still alive.
The extraordinary study has implications for the search for ancient life, not just on Earth but also in extraterrestrial environments such as Mars, where large salt deposits have been identified as evidence of ancient, large-scale liquid water reservoirs.
The organisms do not have the appearance that you might have been anticipating seeing.
Previous ancient microfossils dating back billions of years have been discovered and crushed into rock formations such as shale.
When it comes to preserving biological matter, salt is not as effective as other methods.
Instead, when the crystals are developing in an environment containing saltwater, there is a possibility that minute amounts of fluid will become caught inside of them.
These are known as fluid inclusions, and they are the remains of the parent waters that which the halite crystallized.
Since of this, they are extremely useful to science because they can hold information about the temperature of the water, the chemistry of the water, and even the temperature of the atmosphere at the time that the mineral originated.
In contemporary and current conditions where halite occurs, scientists have also discovered microbes capable of sustaining life.
A microscopic examination of water showing organisms in it Even though these settings are quite high in salt content, it has been discovered that microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and algaeare able to survive and even thrive in them.
In addition, there is evidence of microorganisms in the fluid inclusions of gypsum and halite.
The majority of these creatures are modern or recent, but there are a few that date back to ancient times.
The procedure that was used to detect these ancient species, on the other hand, has raised some questions about whether or not they are the same age as the halite.
"Therefore, a question has persisted amongst geomicrobiologists," wrote a team led by geologist Sara Schreder-Gomes of West Virginia University.
"What are the oldest chemical sedimentary rocks that contain prokaryotic and eukaryotic microorganisms from the depositional environment?"
Although it is currently a desert, the interior of Australia was previously covered by an ancient saltwater sea.
The Browne Formation is a well-defined and dated stratigraphic unit that originates from the central region of Australia. It dates back to the Neoproterozoic era.
It contains significant amounts of halite, which is characteristic of an ancient marine environment.
Schreder-Gomes and her colleagues were able to undertake analyses of intact Neoproterozoic halite utilizing nothing but non-invasive optical methods since they used a core sample taken from the Browne Formation in 1997 by the Geological Survey of Western Australia.
This resulted in the halite being preserved, and it is crucial to note that this indicates that whatever was contained therein had to have been trapped at the moment the crystals formed.
They used transmitted light and ultraviolet petrography, initially at low magnification to identify the halite crystals and then at up to 2,000x magnification to analyze the fluid inclusions that were present within the halite crystals.
A beautiful view of ocean waves near the rock formation
Inside, they discovered organic solids and liquids that, based on their size, shape, and ultraviolet fluorescence, were consistent with prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells.
The cells were found to have been digested. It was also intriguing to see the different levels of fluorescence.
Some of the materials exhibited colors that are typical of organic decomposition, but others revealed the same fluorescence as modern organisms, which the researchers interpreted as a possible indicator of undamaged organic material.
The researchers pointed out that it's even feasible that some of the organisms still have a pulse of life in them.
The fluid inclusions could function as microhabitats, which would allow for the growth of very small colonies.
Also, live prokaryotes dating back 250 million years have been recovered from halite; why not 830 million years?
According to what the researchers noted, "Possible survival of microorganisms over geologic time scales is not fully understood."
"It has been suggested that radiation would destroy organic matter over long time periods, yet Nicastro et al. (2002) found that buried 250 million-year-old halite was exposed to only negligible amounts of radiation."
"Additionally, microorganisms may survive in fluid inclusions by metabolic changes, including starvation survival and cyst stages, and coexistence with organic compounds or dead cells that could serve as nutrient sources."
A Reddit usershared the above video and people have something to say about it. GigglesAtPain shared a really funnycomment, "I am imagining a tiny eco system in there. Just chillin for millions of years. Then thier entire known universe just starts shaking and slamming around. Bright lights are piercing through what they thought was the edge of the cosmos. Then everything goes silent and dark again, until the next time we take pictures of their little universe again."
Well, I also think the same. If something like that happens with us someday. Maybe we are bacteria for some creatures too. What do you think?
User ddT70 has something to say too, "Funny that this is not dissimilar to thoughts I have about our universe. You know when you strike a match and a random spark flies off and burns out in half a second? I sometimes think that that’s our sun….. and we’re just floating in someone’s room while they’re sparking up in a fraction of a second."
On a more serious note, Reddit user gemagus shared an insightful opinion, "By analyzing the chemical makeup of any dissolved solids, the isotopes of the water and any other chemicals in it, they can make inferences about the climate at the time the water was trapped. Stuff like temperature, rainfall, etc.
This is especially true if they can understand the age of the rocks, as they can compare/contrast with existing paleoclimate data. This can lead them to say things like whether the water was trapped at initial deposition, or seeped in later and was sealed in, etc.
You can also get a sense of mineral content in the dissolved water, which can be used for exploring for more minerals nearby.
And if there are any microflaura or microfauna tests, that can be interesting too. It can’t give you a good understanding of the paleo ecosystem, as most stuff will break apart. But you can learn about anything that remains preserved."
Researchers have discovered traces of old water in the bedrock to the north of Lake Superior. More than 2.5 billion years ago, this region, which is tinted red, came into being. The discovery of water that had been preserved in rock for more than a billion years has been made by scientists.
The deepest aquifers in Canada contain water that is two billion years old, making it the oldest water in the world. The water found in an ancient pool beneath Canada in 2016 is at least 2 billion years old, making it the oldest water ever discovered anywhere in the world.
In this latest experiment, which was directed by Dr. Oliver Warr from the University of Toronto, water was discovered at a depth of approximately three kilometers. In addition, examinations have demonstrated that its age exceeds two billion years.
What was your reaction when you heard about ancient water has been trapped in these rocks for millions of years? Are you ready to meet some astonishing creatures for whom we are just some kind of bacteria?
Have you heard about cyclops, Greek mythological creatures?