Forming Fossils

Beginnings of Life

When did the basic form of life develop on Earth?

It is thought that as far back as about 3.8 billion years ago, a basic form of life was present on Earth. This life took the form of tiny cells, which were surrounded by membranes to isolate and protect their interiors from the surrounding environment. The cells had a basic genetic system similar to those in modern cells, and this allowed the cells to self-replicate. We classify these earliest life-forms as prokaryotes, which includes such organisms as bacteria and cyanobacteria.


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