World's oldest plant fossil discovered
The groundbreaking find pushes back the evolution of complex life forms by another 400 million years.
The discovery was made by Stockholm student Therese Sallstedt during an analysis of fossil microbes retrieved from rocks in Chitrakoot, central India, which dated back 1.6 billion years.
Up until now the earliest known plant fossils had been around 1.2 billion years old.
"I had seen something similar a little bit before in other thin sections... but the 'eureka moment' was when I found this particular specimen when I saw these colonies of algae," said Sallstedt. "What I could see was the fossils were really big compared to the bacterial fossils surrounding them."
The find suggests that the 'Cambrian Explosion' - a burst of evolution which occurred around 600 million years ago - may have taken a lot longer to develop than scientists had previously believed.
"I got so excited I had to walk three times around the building before I went to my supervisor to tell him what I had seen," said Sallstedt.