A team of paleontologists says that the tiny freckles that they found on a rock could hold the key to better understanding the origins of plant life on Earth.
Virginia Tech researchers said that the freckles are some billion-year-old seaweed microfossils, and these are pushing back the current record of the multicellular green plant by almost 200 million years, says a study that’s been published on Monday.
Before this, the oldest known fossilized green alga was about 800 million years old.
CNN writes that these fossils are really tiny – they’re about 2 mm in length or the size of a flea, so you can get a better picture of the situation.
Despite the tiny size, these microplants, may have contributed to the evolution of the land plants that appeared almost 550 million years later.
The green seaweed is a form of algae that is known as Proterocladus antiquus.
This was unearthed by post-doctoral researcher Qing Tang who found these fossils in a rock near the city of Dailan in northern China.
The oldest multicellular green seaweed ever discovered
He used maps that showed researchers where in the world they can find millions to billions-year-old rocks.
After these rocks have been found, there were shipped back to the experts’ lab where each and every one of them has been analyzed under a microscope.
CNN continues and writes that what appeared as just “little brownish-grey freckles on mudstone rocks” were actually “the oldest multicellular green seaweed ever discovered.”
“I was very excited when I found the first specimen of the seaweed fossil,” Tang told CNN.
The expert continued and revealed that “I immediately showed it to my supervisor, Professor Shuhai Xiao at Virginia Tech, and we both agreed that this is something really important.”
We recommend that you head over to CNN’s original article in order to find out more details.