“life may have been more precocious than most of us thought”

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A newly discovered fossil suggests plants are hundreds of millions of years older than we thought—Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz

A new discovery in central India is pushing back the timeline for the earliest-known plant life by several million years.

The discovery was made by a team of researchers, led by Stefan Bengtson of the Swedish Museum of Natural History, while studying three sets of preserved 1.6 billion-year-old fossil communities from the Chitrakoot district in the state of Madhya Pradesh. These communities were made up of ancient organisms which originally lived in shallow waters with mats of bacteria. The researchers discovered that these organisms shared several features with red algae, or Rhodophyta, one of the oldest groups of algae and plant-life known to exist on Earth.

When scientists previously dated the earliest-known plant life to 1.2 billion years, they assumed that multicellular organisms took 600 million years to develop. With these latest findings, it seems like that evolution actually took place over the period of a billion years. This finding could prompt scientists to rethink the timeline of all life.

if the fossils discovered in India have been properly identified, and their age has been accurately determined, their existence could show that “life may have been more precocious than most of us thought.”