A team of Swedish researchers appears to have just uncovered the world's oldest fossilised plant . It was discovered inside sedimentary rock from Chitrakoot, India, that dates back 1.6 billion years.
Using an array of advanced imaging techniques the team were examining the rocks when they happened upon a clump of multicellular red algae.
“I got so excited I had to walk three times around the building before I went to my supervisor to tell him what I had seen,” said student Therese Sallstedt, who made the discovery.
“The fossils we found show that complex life was there already by 1.6 billion years ago, but the great radiation of animal life-forms still didn’t happen until 600m years ago," she told The Independent.
Although the fossils date back over a billion and a half years, complex multicellular life didn't really take hold on our planet until the so-called 'Cambrian Explosion' about 600 million years ago.
The research, which appears in PLOS Biology , pushes back our evidence of life on earth by 400 million years.
“You cannot be 100 per cent sure about material this ancient, as there is no DNA remaining, but the characteristics agree quite well with the morphology and structure of red algae,” said Professor Bengtson, who led the team from the Swedish Museum of Natural History.
Our understanding of life on Earth is that it didn't take long to appear after the formation of the planet some 3.77 billion years ago.
Single-celled organisms called prokaryotes likely emerged from deep hydrothermal vents and stayed that way for the next 2.5 billion years.
The red algae found is one of the first ever eukaryotes - multicellular organisms with specified cells for certain processes. In this case, oxygen-producing photosynthesis.
The team has said that it intends to continue looking at rocks from this area of India in an attempt to try and discover and collect more evidence.
According to mirror.co.uk