The 407-million-year-old bacteria were among the first organisms to colonize Earth

Researchers studying a collection of ancient and new fossils recently discovered that an ancient species of bacteria called Langella ScofieldiHe was one of the first people to colonize Earth more than 407 million years ago.

to. scourfieldii It is a type of cyanobacteria, which is part of… Hapalosyphonaceae family. These microorganisms grew among early land plants during the Early Devonian Period.

Although scientists have long documented cyanobacteria, little is known about how these photosynthetic microorganisms manage to leave the water to live on land. However, new research by Dr. Christine Strollo-Derren, a paleontologist at the UK National History Museum, and her team has found that… to. scourfieldii They are the oldest known species of cyanobacteria to have lived on Earth, a discovery that helped fill in the gaps.

“Through the 3D reconstructions, we were able to see evidence of branching, which is a feature of the cyanobacterium Hapalosifonas,” Strollo-Deren explained in a paper statement.

“This is exciting because it means that these are the oldest cyanobacteria of this type found on Earth.”

Cyanobacteria fossils are among the oldest fossils ever discovered, with the oldest ones thought to be about 2 billion years old.

Also known as blue-green algae today (which is a real case of misnomer because they are not algae), these bacteria live in and around aquatic environments all over the world, including oceans and rivers, but also on wet rocks (even in Antarctica). And in wet sand.

Cyanobacteria have played an essential role in shaping the history of our planet, helping to make it hospitable to complex life and influencing evolution in general. Through the process of photosynthesis, they help produce the oxygen we need to live. In doing so, they are likely getting started The great oxygen eventsometime between 2.4 to 2.1 billion years ago.

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At this time, methane, which was the dominant gas on the planet, was replaced by oxygen and became the main component of the atmosphere. This event led to what is believed to be the first mass extinction, as anaerobes failed to adapt to the conditions.

“Cyanobacteria in the Early Devonian played the same role they do today,” added Dr. Strollo-Deren. “Some organisms use them for food, but they are also important in photosynthesis. We knew they were already around when plants first began to colonize Earth, and may have competed with them for space.”

What a difference it does Langella Scofieldi Make?

L. scourfieldii They were first discovered in 1959 in rock fragments found at the Rhynie Chert excavation site in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. However, these samples were difficult to examine properly, but more recent samples have been recovered in the same area and are more amenable to analysis.

The main feature that Dr. Strollo-Deren and her colleagues were looking for were signs of “true branching.” This occurs when bacteria grow next to each other in a line, with some separating in a different direction to form branches, but not all cyanobacteria show this true branching.

As such, find L. scourfieldii Finding specimens of the Rhynie Chert is a big deal, because it allows scientists to confirm their presence in wet terrestrial ecosystems in this region. In essence, they were able to jump from water to land and were able to thrive.

During the Early Devonian, the landscape of this part of Scotland was much different than it is today. The Earth was actually located closer to the equator and had a warmer, tropical climate. This would leave the Rhynie Chert covered with wet sand flats and pools of brackish water.

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However, this was a time before trees and other complex life forms existed, so the environment was much less fertile. In such a sparse kingdom, fungi, bacteria and algae dominated and competed for life on the rocks near the water’s edge.

Since plants had not yet developed deep, complex roots, they likely grew on microbial mats formed by these microorganisms, an important interaction at this early stage of life on Earth.

“The Rhynie Chert is a special site because it is 400 million years old, and much of the environment from this time has been preserved,” Dr. Strollo-Derren explained.

“It’s the only site where you find traces of all living things together: plants, animals, fungi, bacteria and algae. And you can see the interactions between species that might be occurring.”

The study is published in iScience.

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