Living organisms found in 830 million year old fossil crystals?

An incredible discovery could revolutionize the history of geology

by Lorenzo Ciotti
Living organisms found in 830 million year old fossil crystals?

An incredible discovery could revolutionize the history of geology. Living organisms dating back to 830 million, such as algae, prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, were found inside ancient rock salt crystals. Prehistoric microorganisms may still be alive.

Inside the fluid inclusions trapped in the crystals, in fact, the conditions could be present to allow colonies of tiny organisms to survive for entire geological eras. The discovery was made by scientists from the Department of Geology and Geography at the University of West Virginia, who analyzed samples extracted over 25 years ago from the Browne Formation, a Neoproterozoic era fossil deposit in Central Australia.

The organic solids and liquids identified in the fluid inclusions are consistent in size, shape and fluorescent response with prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells and with organic compounds. A surprising detail is that the fluorescence emitted by some of these organic compounds is comparable to that of modern, unaltered microorganisms.

This suggests that some of them may still be alive within the halite sample. Scientists limited themselves to non-invasive optical investigations in order not to damage the precious samples. Pic by Geology

The longest-lived organisms

In recent times, the living organisms belonging to the Animalia kingdom considered to be the longest-lived of the planet Earth are small marine creatures of the order of hydrozoans, of the genus Hydra, or of particular jellyfish called Turritopsis dohrnii, in the variety called Turritopsis nutricula and, for their peculiarity in fact, simply called immortal jellyfish.

Immortal jellyfish have a very high regeneration capacity and, after reaching the mature jellyfish stage, they return to the initial polyp stage, thus making them practically immortal. In order of longevity, particular types of marine sponges and corals should be mentioned immediately after, although they are still relatively very simple life forms.

For their longevity, also the tardigrades, tiny (about 0.5 mm) and harmless beings, but also resistant to very extreme environments, should be mentioned with particular attention; it has been noted that they can live for a long time since, in addition to epochal periods of hibernation, they can "reactivate" by binding to the DNA of bacteria and fungi.

Among vertebrates, on the other hand, the longevity record belongs to the Greenland shark (400 years) followed by the Greenland whale, a cetacean that can live around 200 years, while the Granny orca reached a record of 105 years.