Scientists discover an unknown prehistoric world – on Earth – LSB

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Deep in the remote desert of Argentina, over 12,000 feet high and in a place where there are no roads, scientists have discovered an exotic world new to science.

Among the white salt flats atop the Puna de Atacama Plateau is a system of greenish lagoons housing vast bacterial communities called stromatolites, which create layered mounds as they expand. The unique ecosystem may be a glimpse of Earth billions of years ago, when primitive organisms appeared on our planet.

“This lagoon may be one of the best modern examples of the earliest signs of life on Earth,” geologist Brian Hynek, one of the scientists who discovered this elusive ecosystem, said in a statement. “It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen, or indeed anything any scientist has ever seen.”

“It’s just amazing that you can still find undocumented things like this on our planet,” marveled Hynek, a professor at CU Boulder.


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In the drone footage below, you can see these mysterious lagoons and the life that thrives in them:

Some of the oldest evidence of life on Earth is preserved stromatolites, such as the 3.45 billion-year-old fossilized structures found at Marble Bar, in Western Australia. Then photosynthetic microbes called cyanobacteria created these layered mounds. Significant amounts of oxygen from cyanobacteria wouldn’t even appear in Earth’s atmosphere until much later, about 2.5 billion years ago.

This newfound environment may also hint at what the desert planet Mars was like when it was a temperate, watery world with lakes and even roaring rivers.

“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen, or indeed anything any scientist has ever seen.”

“If life ever evolved on Mars to the fossil level, this would be it,” Hynek said. “Understanding these modern communities on Earth can inform us what to look for as we look for similar features in Martian rocks.”

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No wonder these strange lagoons have remained unknown – at least to modern scientists. While staying in a small desert village (population 35), the researchers noticed hints of the lagoon in satellite images. They drove until the road ended and then walked across, eventually reaching the greenish bodies of water.

“In some places we were knee-deep in salty mush,” Hinek said.

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