Scientists have made a discovery which could place the date when life began on Earth a massive 300 million years earlier than previously thought.
If correct, the discovery suggests that organic life could have started just 4.1 billion years after the Earth formed, far earlier than had been previously thought using current dating techniques.
Earth's early formative years saw the landscape as a sea of lava dotted with volcanoes.
Researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles analysed tiny pieces of graphite found within old zircon crystals from Western Australia.
What they found were that the atoms found within the graphite were made from 12C, a carbon strain that is normally connected to living organisms.
The findings suggest that Earth could have had a habitable biosphere as early as 4.1 billion years ago, some 300 million years earlier than first thought.
Dr Mark Harrison, who led the study, admits that there could have been external causes such as meteorite impacts however Harrison argues that the carbon was so entirely encased in zircon that the likelihood of it being extra-terrestrial is extremely low.
At the very least, the discovery pushes our knowledge of carbon isotopes back 300 million years.