Emmanuelle Javaux, University of LIége, Belgium

Tuesday, 20 April 2021, 16:00 CEST (15:00 UTC)

Deciphering the early record and evolution of life is crucial to characterize plausible and reliable biosignatures of microbial life and understand the evolution of the Earth biosphere. We can then address questions regarding the conditions for life to appear and develop on a planetary body (habitability), or the probability for an extraterrestrial biosphere to develop complex metabolism or complex life. This research is also critical to develop life detection strategies, instruments and missions applicable to other planets of the solar system such as the ongoing and future Martian missions, and to atmospheres of rocky exoplanets, and to samples returned to Earth, as space agencies have recently come to appreciate.

Considerable debates still exist regarding the age and origins of the three domains of life (Archaea, Bacteria, Eucarya), as well as the evolution of cellular life before LUCA. Possible isotopic, biosedimentary, molecular and morphological traces of life suggest the presence of microbial communities in diverse environments. However, these traces may in some cases also be produced by abiotic processes or later contamination, leaving a controversy surrounding the earliest record of life on Earth. Before a microstructure can be accepted as a microfossil, a series of approaches need to be employed to prove its endogenicity, syngenicity, and biological origin, as well as to falsify an abiotic explanation for the observed morphologies or chemistries. These micro- to nano-scale analyses complement the macro-scale characterisation of the geological context, as the environmental conditions will determine the plausibility of ancient habitats and the conditions of fossilisation.  Experimental taphonomy also helps understanding the processes of decay and preservation of biosignatures during fossilization. Interpreting the identity and paleobiology of unambiguous traces may also be challenging. However, regardless of taxonomy, the paleobiological record can provide direct evidence for extinct clades and/or for the minimum age of evolution of biological innovations. Reassessing the evidence of early life is challenging but essential and timely for the quest of life’s first traces and evolution, both on Earth and beyond.

See the trailer at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrfZFlnKIEI&t=1s

The lecture will be streamed at:  https://www.gotomeet.me/EAI_online

The European Astrobiology Institute presents "LIfe Beyond Us"

"Life Beyond Us", a new anthology by the European Astrobiology Institute and Laksa Media, depicts the timeless quest for finding alien life in 22 science fiction stories and 22 short science essays. The Kickstarter campaign has just started with the goal to publish brilliant science fiction by authors such as Mary Robinette Kowal or Peter Watts and support science understanding and critical thinking.

Please suppopret the project generously here.

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, the BEACON conference has been adjourned. Most likely dates are now 25-29 April 2022. We apologise for the inconvenience and hope to welcome you in La Palma in 2022 ! See the cancellation procedures at the BEACON website


The summer school on "Formation and evolution of planetary systems and habitable planets" will be organised by the European Astrobiology Institute at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń has been adjourned. We hope to hold it in 2021.

For all information check the website:


The European Astrobiology Institute (EAI) is a consortium of European research and higher education institutions and organisations as well as other stakeholders aiming to carry out research, training, outreach and dissemination activities in astrobiology in a comprehensive and coordinated manner and thereby securing a leading role for the European Research Area in the field.

On this website you will find information on the aimsstructure, forms of membership as well as the composition of the Management Committee. Documents available on this site include:

  • the Statutes of the EAI
  • an executive summary
  • a promotional folder
  • the communiques of the past meetings of the EAI Interim Board
  • the resolutions of the General Assembly in Liblice, CZ (30 May 2019)

We are looking forward to welcoming your institution as paricipant into the EAI. Meanwhile, we are interested in your views and hope that you find the information available on this site useful.

Please join us at the Biannual European Astrobiology Conference (BEACON) on La Palma Island, Canary Island, Spain (20-24 April 2020). Abstract submission deadline is closed but you can still register. Rooms at the venue are still available on a first come-first served basis.