The origins of life

The origins and early evolution of life are key events in the history of Earth as only fossils can provide it direct evidences. What is now considered to be the earliest fossils date back to about 3400 million years ago, a time when structures called stromatolites also appear on the planet. These ancient, bio-sedimentary structures commonly are the result of the complex interaction of microbial mats, and therefore they are crucial for our understanding of the ancient history of life. In addition, documenting their geochemistry could provide fundamental tools to properly understand the metabolisms of the organisms involved. Our research group at the BiGeA uses differentiated analytical approaches for the study of traces of primitive life (microbial fossils and stromatolites). In particular, advanced imaging techniques are used to study the morphology of ancient cell remains and stromatolites, whereas spectroscopic techniques are applied to understand their chemical composition. In addition to optical microscopy,  the most used techniques are scanning and transmission electron microscopy and microanalysis (SEM-TEM-EDX), laser confocal microcopy (CLSM), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and RAMAN spectroscopy .