World’s Oldest Green Algae Fossil Discovered In China
Scientists are now one step closer to knowing when photosynthesizing plants first evolved with the discovery of the world’s oldest green algae fossil, a new species of multicellular green algae that are believed to be a billion years old.
A team of researchers from Virginia Tech discovered this new species and the Nature Ecology and Evolution published their results.
In palaeoscience, one of the biggest mysteries is when exactly the first green plant (or algae) came into being, and with this new discovery, scientists get a step closer in understanding this mystery.
A cataclysmic change in the earth’s ecosystem occurred when the birth and multiplication of multicellular green algae that can perform photosynthesis had set off which gave rise to trees and plants. Until then, the only organisms that first performed photosynthesis and filled the environment with oxygen were cyanobacteria and the planet only had single-cell microbes and cyanobacteria.
It was discovered that there were 1,028 individual specimens, the new algae were found in abundant quantities. The algae found in abundant quantities implies that when it existed, it must have thrived.
Scientists have argued that this new algae species died in the shallow ocean and were preserved due to being “cooked” under a layer of sediment.
The new algae is a seaweed
The researchers have said that the new algae stood upright on the seafloor by using its root and branch-like structures and is essentially a seaweed. The research study also states that there are existing algae that are very similar to the fossils, the algae belonging to a modern green seaweed group called siphonocladaleans.
It was suggested through genetic analysis that than the red algae, the green algae are much older. However, red algae fossils older than those of the Proterocladus antiquus are the ones that have been discovered till today.
Than the newly-discovered green algae, over 50 million years older algae, the oldest red algae fossils that have been found.
In Uttar Pradesh’s Chitrakoot, India, previously, scientists have discovered 1.6 billion-year-old fossils of red algae yet it is likely that sometime in the future, older green algae may be discovered.
By using different parts of the light spectrum, red and brown algae also perform photosynthesis.
It is thought that algae were the only multicellular plants on earth until the first plants evolved only 430 million years ago, the first vertebrates 470 million years ago and multicellular organisms evolved around 600 million years ago.