Researchers have stumbled on some of the oldest examples of prehistoric bacteria in Australia that may hold early clues to climate change.
Deakin University palaeontologists Guang Shi and Elizabeth A. Weldon were part of an international team that found the 268 million-year-old bacteria on the coastline near Wollongong.
Shi said the team, which included scientists from China, accidentally came across the fossilised bacteria while on the hunt for other fossils.
Shi and Weldon's collaborator, Yi-Ming Gong from China University of Geosciences, collected some of the trace fossils and took them back to China where he cut and polished the rock and took small samples.
Through stringent lab tests and powerful Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope analysis he discovered the bacteria.
"The fossilised bacteria colony looks like a bunch of grapes at microscopic level inside the trace fossil," Shi said.
Two different types of bacteria were found in different layers within the trace fossil in the rock, which may provide valuable clues about how animals reacted to climate change, said a Deakin release.
"The alternating arrangement of the different layers of sediment containing different bacteria fossils could represent a response of the animal to warm and cold climate changes," Shi said.