The earliest life on Earth arose at least 3.5 billion years ago. Earlier physical evidences of life include graphite, a biogenic substance, in 3.7 billion-year-old metasedimentary rocks discovered in southwestern Greenland, as well as, "remains of biotic life" found in 4.1 billion-year-old rocks in Western Australia. Earth's biodiversity has expanded continually except when interrupted by mass extinctions. Although scholars estimate that over 99 percent of all species of life (over five billion) that ever lived on Earth are extinct, there are still an estimated 10–14 million extant species, of which about 1.2 million have been documented and over 86% have not yet been described.
The use of biotic materials, and processed biotic materials (bio-based material) as alternative natural materials, over synthetics is popular with those who are environmentally conscious because such materials are usually biodegradable, renewable, and the processing is commonly understood and has minimal environmental impact. However, not all biotic materials are used in an environmentally friendly way, such as those that require high levels of processing, are harvested unsustainably, or are used to produce carbon emissions.
When the source of the recently living material has little importance to the product produced, such as in the production of biofuels, biotic material is simply called biomass. Many fuel sources may have biological sources, and may be divided roughly into fossil fuels, and biofuel.
In soil science, biotic material is often referred to as organic matter. Biotic materials in soil include glomalin, Dopplerite and humic acid. Some biotic material may not be considered to be organic matter if it is low in organic compounds, such as a clam's shell, which is an essential component of the living organism, but contains little organic carbon.
Examples of the use of biotic materials include:
- Schopf, JW, Kudryavtsev, AB, Czaja, AD, and Tripathi, AB. (2007). Evidence of some Archean life: Stromatolites and microfossils. Precambrian Research 158:141–155.
- Schopf, JW (2006). Fossil evidence of Archaean life. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 29;361(1470) 869-85.
- Hamilton Raven, Peter; Brooks Johnson, George (2002). Biology. McGraw-Hill Education. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-07-112261-0. Retrieved 7 July 2013.
- Ohtomo, Yoko; Kakegawa, Takeshi; Ishida, Akizumi; et al. (January 2014). "Evidence for biogenic graphite in early Archaean Isua metasedimentary rocks". Nature Geoscience. London: Nature Publishing Group. 7 (1): 25–28. Bibcode:2014NatGe...7...25O. doi:10.1038/ngeo2025. ISSN 1752-0894.
- Borenstein, Seth (19 October 2015). "Hints of life on what was thought to be desolate early Earth". Excite. Yonkers, NY: Mindspark Interactive Network. Associated Press. Retrieved 2015-10-20.
- Bell, Elizabeth A.; Boehnike, Patrick; Harrison, T. Mark; et al. (19 October 2015). "Potentially biogenic carbon preserved in a 4.1 billion-year-old zircon" (PDF). Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences. 112: 14518–21. doi:10.1073/pnas.1517557112. ISSN 1091-6490. PMC . PMID 26483481. Retrieved 2015-10-20. Early edition, published online before print.
- Sahney, S.; Benton, M.J. & Ferry, P.A. (27 January 2010). "Links between global taxonomic diversity, ecological diversity and the expansion of vertebrates on land" (PDF). Biology Letters. 6 (4): 544–47. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2009.1024. PMC . PMID 20106856.
- Kunin, W.E.; Gaston, Kevin, eds. (31 December 1996). The Biology of Rarity: Causes and consequences of rare—common differences. ISBN 978-0412633805. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
- Stearns, Beverly Peterson; Stearns, S. C.; Stearns, Stephen C. (2000). Watching, from the Edge of Extinction. Yale University Press. p. preface x. ISBN 978-0-300-08469-6. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
- Novacek, Michael J. (8 November 2014). "Prehistory's Brilliant Future". New York Times. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
- May, Robert M. (1988). "How many species are there on earth?". Science. 241 (4872): 1441–1449. Bibcode:1988Sci...241.1441M. doi:10.1126/science.241.4872.1441. PMID 17790039.
- Miller, G.; Spoolman, Scott (1 January 2012). "Biodiversity and Evolution". Environmental Science. Cengage Learning. p. 62. ISBN 1-133-70787-4. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
- Mora, C.; Tittensor, D.P.; Adl, S.; Simpson, A.G.; Worm, B. (23 August 2011). "How many species are there on Earth and in the ocean?". PLOS Biology. 9: e1001127. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001127. PMC . PMID 21886479.