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Proceedings Paper

Electron microscope methods in the search for the earliest life forms on Earth (in 3.5-3.3 Ga cherts from the Barberton Greenstone Belt, South Africa): applications for extraterrestrial life studies
Author(s): Frances Westall; Dane Gerneke
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Paper Abstract

A suite of previously unknown microfossils and related biogenic structures has been revealed in some of the oldest sediments on Earth using scanning electron microscopy. High resolution scanning electron microscopy of HF-etched, biolaminated charts has brought to light a variety of small fossil coccoid and rod-shaped bacteria and associated fossil biofilms containing bedding planes. These microfossils have ben completely replaced by minerals. This vastly improved early Archaean microfossil database sheds new light on the diversity of life on Earth relatively soon after the cessation of heavy bolide bombardment at about 3.8 Ga. This is the critical period when life may have been able to develop on Mars and these early Archaean terrestrial microfossils will serve as valuable analogues for possible extraterrestrial life.

Paper Details

Date Published: 6 July 1998
PDF: 12 pages
Proc. SPIE 3441, Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology, (6 July 1998); doi: 10.1117/12.319833
Show Author Affiliations
Frances Westall, Univ. of Bologna (Italy) and NASA Johnson Space Ctr. (United States)
Dane Gerneke, Univ. of Cape Town (Italy)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 3441:
Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology
Richard B. Hoover, Editor(s)

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