This Deep-Sea Sulfur Bacteria Hasn’t Evolved in More Than 2 Billion Years
ancient sulfur bacteria

It can’t be seen with the naked eye, but scientists claim it hasn’t evolved in at least 2.3 billion years. A team of scientists examined sulfur bacteria that was found preserved in rocks off the coast of Australia. This bacteria was 1.8 billion years old. Using the latest technology, scientists found the 1.8 billion year old bacteria looked exactly the same as bacteria from 2.3 billion years ago.

It gets even crazier. Both these bacteria are identical to modern sulfur bacteria found off the coast of Chile.

“It seems astounding that life has not evolved for more than 2 billion years — nearly half the history of the Earth,” said J. William Schopf, a UCLA professor of earth, planetary and space sciences, and the study’s lead author. “Given that evolution is a fact, this lack of evolution needs to be explained.”

Charles Darwin’s study of evolution focused on organisms that did evolve. So, how can an organism that doesn’t evolve work in Darwin’s theory? Because, evolution is not a forgone conclusion.

“The rule of biology is not to evolve unless the physical or biological environment changes, which is consistent with Darwin,” said Schopf.

Our planet has seen massive changes throughout its history, but one area has stayed near-constant for a very long time. The deep ocean. Deep-sea bacteria do not need to evolve if nothing is changing.

sulfur bacteria fossils

Schopf says, “If they were in an environment that did not change but they nevertheless evolved, that would have shown that our understanding of Darwinian evolution was seriously flawed.”

But, the scientists do think the lack of evolution deserves further study to establish this part of evolutionary theory. Here is a piece of the published paper:

Although the apparent 2-billion-year-long stasis of such sulfur-cycling ecosystems is consistent with the null hypothesis required of Darwinian evolution—if there is no change in the physical-biological environment of a well-adapted ecosystem, its biotic components should similarly remain unchanged—additional evidence will be needed to establish this aspect of evolutionary theory.

You can read the full paper here.

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