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Fossil cells with ‘tails’ may have been moving 3.4 billion years ago

A transmission electron micrograph of a modern bacterium, Helicobacter pylori. This section shows a spherical body and several flagella

BIOMEDICAL IMAGING UNIT, SOUTHAM

Some of the earliest microorganisms may have been able to move around under their own power using whip-like “tails”, according to a study of fossils from 3.4 billion years ago. However, other palaeontologists say the evidence is weak – although they agree that the ability to move probably did evolve early.

The oldest confirmed fossils are 3.5 billion years old. They are all single-celled organisms like bacteria. Many researchers have claimed to have found older fossils, but …

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