16:27 23 January 2017
The world’s oldest water, which is estimated to be at least two billion years old, has been discovered deep down in a mine in Canada.
Professor Barbara Sherwood Lollar, who led the team that made the discovery, said: “When people think about this water they assume it must be some tiny amount of water trapped within the rock.
“But in fact it’s very much bubbling right up out at you. These things are flowing at rates of litres per minute - the volume of the water is much larger than anyone anticipated.”
The first pool of water was discovered at the same site in 2013 and is about 1.5 billion years old.
“It really pushed back our understanding of how old flowing water could be and so it really drove us to explore further,” said Prof Sherwood Lollar.
“And we took advantage of the fact that the mine is continuing to explore deeper and deeper into the earth.”
The discovery provides scientists with valuable information about our planet’s history and gives a glimpse at the life that was present at this time.
“By looking at the sulphate in the water, we were able to see a fingerprint that’s indicative of the presence of life,” said Prof Sherwood Lollar.
“And we were able to indicate that the signal we are seeing in the fluids has to have been produced by microbiology - and most importantly has to have been produced over a very long time scale.
“The microbes that produced this signature couldn’t have done it overnight. This isn’t just a signature of very modern microbiology.
“This has to be an indication that organisms have been present in these fluids on a geological timescale.”