The earliest fossil evidence of life on Earth has been found in rocks 3.7 billion years old in Greenland, raising chances of life on Mars aeons ago when both planets were similarly desolate, scientists said on Wednesday.

The experts found tiny humps, between 1 and 4 cm (0.4 and 1.6 inches) tall, in rocks at Isua in southwest Greenland that they said were fossilised groups of microbes similar to ones now found in seas from Bermuda to Australia.

If confirmed as fossilised communities of bacteria known as stromatolites — rather than a freak natural formation — the lumps would predate fossils found in Australia as the earliest evidence of life on Earth by 220 million years.