Earth’s oldest fossils have been found in Australia by a team from the University of Western Australia and Oxford University. The microscopic fossils show convincing evidence for cells and bacteria living in an oxygen-free world over 3.4 billion years ago.
The new evidence presented by this study suggests that early life on Earth, was sulfur-based, living on a significantly hotter planet with little to no oxygen. This life, this bacteria, is still present today, living off sulfuric compounds in hot springs and geothermal vents.
This also gives hope to the search for life on other planets, adding another facet to life that we could look for. Planets that would be previously overlooked could now be searched, knowing that their extreme environments could harbor life.
I would also like to point out that findings like this really put the nonsense of the creationist movement into perspective.
David Wacey, Matt R. Kilburn, Martin Saunders, John Cliff, Martin D. Brasier. Microfossils of sulphur-metabolizing cells in 3.4-billion-year-old rocks of Western Australia. Nature Geoscience, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1238