Is this uncertainty due to the petering-out of the rock record (and the fossil-destroying metamorphic alteration to which the older surviving rocks have been subjected), or, rather, does the fossil record, as now known, evidence the true evolutionary history of this process? The Archean fossil record holds the answer. Fossils classed
as Bacteria Incertae Sedis—that is, fossil prokaryotes of the Bacterial Domain that cannot be referred with certainty to a particular bacterial group—are known throughout the geological record. Such remnants constitute the great majority of the fossils now known from Archean-age APO866 order rocks. Owing to the geological recycling HDAC inhibitor discussed above, only about 5% of rocks exposed at the Earth’s surface date from the Archean (Garrels and Mackenzie 1971) and, accordingly, the record of Archean fossils is sparse, in the interval between 2,500 and 3,500 Ma reported from only some 40 rock units
and comprising only six broad bacterium-like morphotypes (Schopf 2006). Of these geological units, 14 date from the interval between 3,200 and 3,500 million years ago, evidence that well documents the existence of microbe-level life this early in Earth history. For virtually all such ancient microbes, the uncertainty in their classification stems from their morphological similarity both to cyanobacteria and non-cyanobacterial bacteria. Given such uncertainty, however, they cannot resolve the question of the time of O2-producing photosynthesis. The Archean fossil microbes most studied are those of the ~3,465-Ma-old Apex chert of northwestern, Western Australia (Schopf 1992a, 1993, 1999; Schopf et al. 2002, 2007, 2010). Shown in Fig. 6 are specimens of Primavifilum amoenum, one of 11 taxa of microorganisms described from this unit (Schopf 1993). MycoClean Mycoplasma Removal Kit These microscopic fossils, and many, but not all, of the ten other taxa reported from the deposit,
are “cyanobacterium-like” in their morphology and cellular anatomy (e.g., compare Fig. 6a through c with Fig. 4a and c). Nevertheless, because of microbial mimicry—the occurrence of more or less identical morphologies in taxa of oxygenic and non-oxygen-producing microbes (Schopf 1992b, 1999)—organismal and cellular morphology, in and of themselves, cannot provide firm evidence of the physiological capabilities of such very ancient microbes (Schopf 1993). What is needed to resolve such uncertainty is an Archean fossil record like that of the Proterozoic, one sufficiently continuous and well documented that it unambiguously links younger fossils of well-established affinities to their older, and typically less well-preserved, evolutionary precursors. Fig. 6 Thin section-embedded filamentous microbes from the ~3,465-Ma-old Apex chert of northwestern Western Australia.