A major scientific study of the origins of life on Earth has been launched in one of the world's most barren and isolated deserts.
GV ZOOM OUT FROM Barren hill in Pilbara area of Western Australia
GV PAN OVER Ancient rock walls TO Group searching area
SV ZOOM TO Fossils on rocks (3 shots)
SV TILT ALONG Wall TO Geologists and students chipping at rocks and examining same (2 shots)
SV Marjorie Muir, Geologist at Department of National Development's Mineral Resources Bureau chipping at rock and examining a find
CU INTERIOR Post graduate student John Dunlop examining fossils under microscope (4 shots)
GV ZOOM OUT FROM Geologists and students at site and shots of ancient rock wall
TRANSCRIPT: WOOD: "Apart from the occasional native animal, there are few signs of life in this barren region of Australia's far North. But these ancient natural rock walls looking more like the abandoned ruins of some medieval castle have revealed signs of a life long gone. A post graduate student from the University of Western Australia, studying rock formations in the area has discovered life forms far older than any previously found. The fossils, of simple single-celled organisms, indicate that life on this planet must have originated at least 3-thousand-five-hundred-million years ago, millions of years earlier than previously thought. The finds are now being evaluated by the University and the Department of National Development's Mineral Resources Bureau. One of the Bureau's geologists, Marjorie Muir, has been in the area studying the formations. The fossils were discovered by post graduate student, John Dunlop.
"Although they can't be seen by the naked eye, they are clearly visible through a microscope. The discovery of the fossils has added another step in the search for the origins of life on Earth. This ancient country, which until the discovery of rich minerals a few years ago was relatively unknown, is now slowly giving up its secrets and helping mankind it getting some picture of life throughout time."
REPORTER: BRENDAN WOOD
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: A major scientific study of the origins of life on Earth has been launched in one of the world's most barren and isolated deserts. The study has been sparked by the discovery of tiny fossils in the rich mining region of the Pilbara, in the far north-west of Australia. The fossils are believed to be thousands of millions of years old, and scientists at the University of Western Australia say their discovery shows the harsh desert region was once a rich fertile valley. Brendan wood of the ABC reports: