Tubular microfossils from ∼2.8 – 2.7 Ga-old lacustrine deposits of South Africa: a sign for early origin of eukaryotes?Authors:Kaźmierczak et alAbstract:Unequivocal evidence for Archean eukaryotic life has been long sought for and is a matter of lively debate. In the absence of unambiguous fossils this debate has focused on biogeochemical signatures and molecular phylogenies. Most researchers agree that fossil forms comparable with modern eukaryotic cells can be credibly identified only in Proterozoic (∼1.8-1.6 Ga) and younger rocks. Herein, we report for the first time, Neoarchean mineralized tubular microfossils from ∼2.8-2.7 Ga lacustrine deposits of South Africa. The exceptional preservation of these microfossils allows recognition of important morphological details in petrographic thin section and in HF-macerates that links them to modern siphonous (coenocytic) green or yellow-green microalgae (Chlorophyta and Xanthophyta). The microfossil identification is supported by Raman spectroscopic analyses, EPMA, SEM/BSE and SEM/EDS microprobe analytical results, NanoSIMS elemental mapping and micro-tomographic sectioning of the thalli. All results point to indigenous, bona fide eukaryotic microfossils of algal affinity. These Neoarchean microalgae-like remains and their assumingly combined in vivo and early post-mortem precipitated mineral envelopes greatly improve our knowledge of early life and its habitats and may have far-reaching consequences for the studies of the evolution of life.