3.4 billion-year-old fossils 'oldest' relics of life

Last updated at 13:39
The Strelley Pool in Western Australia, where scientists have discovered 3.4 billion-year-old microfossilsPA
The Strelley Pool in Western Australia, where scientists discovered the microfossils

Scientists believe they've found the oldest relics of life on Earth - tiny 3.4-BILLION-YEAR-OLD fossils in Western Australia.

The remains of microscopic bacteria, discovered in sandstone rock, have been studied using special techniques.

It's shown these miniscule lifeforms - so small you can't see them - lived on a chemical called sulphur, not oxygen.

On ancient Earth, oxygen wasn't widely available, so life had to find other ways to survive.

Image of the 3.4 billion-year-old microfossils discovered in Western AustraliaPA
The tiny bacteria lived on sulphur, not oxygen

"Such bacteria are still common today," explained Professor Martin Brasier of Oxford University.

"Sulphur bacteria are found in smelly ditches, soil, hot springs... anywhere where there's little free oxygen."

Experts are keen to trace these early microscopic forms of life, because it may help with the hunt for life elsewhere in our Solar System.