5 Amazing Discoveries of Ancient Life

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If it helps you to put a long day in perspective, the earth has been around for about 4.5 billion years, the first billion of which saw a lifeless, hostile ball of noxious gasses, seething lava and almost no atmosphere. Multicellular life (things like you, lobsters and the yellow-bellied sapsucker) did not begin to propagate in a meaningful way until after the so-called Cambrian Explosion, around 550 million years ago when rapid and diverse evolution began. Yet, even before that era, ostensible life-forms already existed, some of which have just recently been unearthed. So if your day is dragging on and on, put things in an evolutionary perspective and get on with your life.

5 The Living Fossil

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The coelacanth fish has been plying the world’s oceans for a while now. How long, you ask? Is around 65 million years long enough to get your attention? This amazing but decidedly ugly creature is a relic of late Cretaceous period, and might have swum while the dinosaurs roamed! Only a few live coelacanths have been reeled in over the past century, but chances are good that a few of these ancient mariners are still swimming.

4 Ancient Fresh Meat

Scientists working in Siberia recently found one of the best-preserved mammoth carcasses ever discovered. How well preserved was this mammoth, you ask? There was still “fresh,” liquid blood trapped in the muscle fibers of the body! For fifteen thousand years, this creature lay covered by ice, only to emerge from the permafrost in about the same state as that steak you forgot you stuck in the back of your freezer after last year’s 4th of July party.

3 Small People, Big Questions

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They are called homo floresiensis by scientists, and Hobbits by the rest of us. Specimens of this family of ancient hominids were discovered on an Indonesian island about a decade ago, and may represent a whole new branch of the human family tree that may have lived for tens of thousands of years, finally dying out around twelve thousand B.C. There is a chance that the skeletal remains studied belong to individuals afflicted with growth-restricting disorders, but the other possibility is that this species of ancient human stood about three and a half feet tall.

2 Put it On Ice

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Earlier this year, Russian scientists might have grabbed a little sip of a 20 million year old lake. Lake Vostok is about the most remote body of water on earth, being located at the center of Antarctica and being covered by nearly two miles of ice. Thus it took more than a decade-long operation to reach the unfrozen waters beneath all that ice, but in this perfectly sealed-off environment, we may discover life both ancient and evolved into new forms.

1 A Gold Mine of Life in a Gold Mine

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In the depths of a Canadian gold mine some 350 miles north of Toronto, miners seeking precious metal may instead have found something even more priceless, as far as the scientific community is concerned. They may have unearthed water containing microbial life forms that have been entirely isolated from the rest of the planet for as much as 1.5 billion years! That means that the samples they have found, which are leftover from ancient oceans, could yield an entirely new example of evolutionary progression, having been outside of the chain of development that has occurred over the eons. This discovery could also offer a glimpse into how microbes might develop on other planets.

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