NORFOLK -- Old Dominion University Associate Professor Nora Noffke and a team of researchers are being credited with a fossil discovery of historic proportions.

The discovery advances the age of the earliest known fossils by 300 million years.

In a remote area of Western Australia, colonies of bacteria that lived 3.5 billion years ago were discovered.

'The fossilized remains of microbial mats were the key,' said Noffke.

'Living micro organisms actually communicated with each other within these mats,' added Noffke.

In her office inside the Oceanography and Geology building at ODU, Noffke showed pieces of microbial mats that can be found along sandy river beds and beaches in Hampton Roads.

'The average person has probably seen these mats, but has no idea what they really are,' Noffke said.

Professor Noffke flies to Brazil Saturday to present her findings at a NASA conference on Astro- and Paleobiology.

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