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Single-Celled Giant Upends Early Evolution - Comments

Sittingduck's Avatar Comment 1 by Sittingduck

Awesome! Biology is cool: mysterious macroscopic living fossils that leave tire marks...

Thu, 20 Nov 2008 19:10:00 UTC | #274035

Titania's Avatar Comment 2 by Titania


Thu, 20 Nov 2008 19:11:00 UTC | #274036

SmartLX's Avatar Comment 3 by SmartLX

Awwwww crap. You just know creationists are gonna work that "magic box" quote for years to come.

Edit: Ooooooohhhhhh, right, it's Discovery. Never mind.

Edit-edit: Hang on, it's the Channel rather than the Institute. Awwwww crap.

Thu, 20 Nov 2008 19:17:00 UTC | #274039

Sittingduck's Avatar Comment 4 by Sittingduck

You just know creationists are gonna work that "magic box" quote for years to come.

yea, probably, but the operative word is "fossil".
Like Lewis Black says "I like to keep a fossil in my pocket and when a creationist says the earth is 6,000 years old, I pull it out and say "FOSSIL!" Then I throw it over their heads".

Thu, 20 Nov 2008 19:27:00 UTC | #274042

Evilcor's Avatar Comment 5 by Evilcor

What's the big deal? I've been keeping these things as pets for ages! :)

Thu, 20 Nov 2008 19:49:00 UTC | #274046

Don_Quix's Avatar Comment 6 by Don_Quix

Giant single cells?? Well duh. Goddidit! Clearly this disproves evolution and proves the earth is only 6,000 years old and proves there is a god and proves that the god of the old testament is the only real god and proves that anyone who doesn't strictly follow only the strictest of old testament interpretations of christianity/judaisim is going to burn for all eternity in HELL!!!!!!

I'm just kidding. This is pretty cool :)

Thu, 20 Nov 2008 20:22:00 UTC | #274051

j.mills's Avatar Comment 7 by j.mills

There's a 1.8 billion-year-old fossil in the Stirling formation in Australia that looks just like one of their traces no doubt we will see a photo of that fossil trace in the next edition of Atlas of Creation. Next to a photo of a grape...

Thu, 20 Nov 2008 20:40:00 UTC | #274053

hoops mccann's Avatar Comment 8 by hoops mccann

I can't wait until they map the genome of this beast.

Thu, 20 Nov 2008 20:47:00 UTC | #274055

Auld's Avatar Comment 9 by Auld

How do you define Protist? If it is defined as an eukaryotic microorgansim, then this beast is not a Protist since it's macroscopic.

Thu, 20 Nov 2008 21:02:00 UTC | #274057

Psi Wavefunction's Avatar Comment 10 by Psi Wavefunction


Protist = All eukaryotes besides plants, animals and fungi. Ie. the other 99% of euk diveristy =D

Size has nothing to do with it. Giant kelps, the ones that make up the beautiful kelp forests of the Pacific coast, are protists too - they have a VERY distant relationship with either plants or animals...

There's also some foraminiferans (also protists) that can get quite big - around 20cm at times. Don't know whether they leave a trail, but they leave behind beautiful fossils -- a foram is a snail-like thing, only unicellular but with many nuclei. Large multinucleate cells are actually not that unusual -- they appear as some seaweeds, as slime moulds, some fairly large amoebozoans (genus Chaos can be seen with a dissecting scope, which is quite nice for a unicellular thing).

Some fungi are microscopic, but are NOT protists... so again, the size thing has no bearing on actual biological classification.

It is quite understandably confusing though -- Protista is not a "natural" (monophyletic) group.

And hoops mccan, it's unlikely that its genome will be sequenced soon, unfortunately. It's a large amoebozoan, thus it's quite likely it may have a fairly large genome. I'll need to check if it's closely related to the likes of genus Amoeba (, where some members have a genome 200x that of ours. It's simply too big to sequence cheaply enough at this time. Although probably in 5-10 years we'll get even faster!

This is quite amazing though -- once again our zoocentric ego is crushed by a few stronger voices for the rest of diversity! =D

(now before a microbiologist gets here and crushes my eukaryocentric ego < .... )


Thu, 20 Nov 2008 21:17:00 UTC | #274063

Butler's Avatar Comment 11 by Butler

It's amazing that single-celled organisms can get this large. I wonder what peculiarities of their genome and/or environmental factors led them down the path to gigantism, rather than multicellularity?

Thu, 20 Nov 2008 21:22:00 UTC | #274064

Psi Wavefunction's Avatar Comment 12 by Psi Wavefunction

Oh, and a source for the 20cm foraminiferan:


(began doubting myself...)

That thing is all one single cell. Amazing!

Edit: Before there's any further confusion, this foram is unrelated to the amoebozoan in the article -- different superkingdoms

Further Edit: Apologies... Gromia was found to be a cercozoan (Burki et al. 2002, Protist) , which IS in the same superkingdom as forams but still fairly distantly related...

Thu, 20 Nov 2008 22:16:00 UTC | #274070

Eshto's Avatar Comment 13 by Eshto

Someone help me out here, is that a picture of a giant single celled thing? If so, why does it look like it's made up of a bunch of smaller things?

Thu, 20 Nov 2008 23:09:00 UTC | #274075

DamnDirtyApe's Avatar Comment 14 by DamnDirtyApe

A lot can happen in 550 million years.

Thu, 20 Nov 2008 23:31:00 UTC | #274077

Psi Wavefunction's Avatar Comment 15 by Psi Wavefunction


It seems this creature has a test (shell), so what you're seeing is the pattern of its shell. The pseudopods (feet) actually protrude from a hole at the bottom. Having trouble finding a pic of Gromia sphaerica, but here's a random testate amoeba (although of a very different group)

And a random Gromia species:

Hope that helps...?


Fri, 21 Nov 2008 00:15:00 UTC | #274081

Quetzalcoatl's Avatar Comment 16 by Quetzalcoatl


Fri, 21 Nov 2008 00:49:00 UTC | #274090

gazzaofbath's Avatar Comment 17 by gazzaofbath

Apart from the fascination of this large single celled animal the article is implying that the "Cambrian Explosion" of life was even more dramtatic than had been suspected. There doesn't appear to be any compelling case of multi-celled animals before about 550 million years at all - everything appeared so quickly then! Amazing.

Most often evolutionary changes are gradual but there do appear to be occasions when something dramatic can be triggered too.

Fri, 21 Nov 2008 00:54:00 UTC | #274093

Quetzalcoatl's Avatar Comment 18 by Quetzalcoatl


Reasonably complex animals probably did exist before 550 million years ago (early molluscs and echinoderms), and it's possible that the Explosion wasn't as remarkable as has been thought:

Fri, 21 Nov 2008 01:08:00 UTC | #274094

BicycleRepairMan's Avatar Comment 19 by BicycleRepairMan

Then, within ten million years an unprecedented blossoming of life swarmed across the planet, filling every niche with hard-bodied, complex creatures.

"It wasn't a gradual development of complexity," Matz said. "Instead these things suddenly seemed to burst out of a magic box."

This is a ridiculuos thing to say, as most people will interpret this completely wrong. OF COURSE it was a gradual development, but compared to everything else in nature, the development was lightning fast. Still, it DID take 10 million years, which is one thousand times longer than civilizations history, a timescale that most of us have trouble imagining, but which is a mere blink of an eye compared to the total age of the earth.

Fri, 21 Nov 2008 01:12:00 UTC | #274095

bendigeidfran's Avatar Comment 20 by bendigeidfran

Sounds huge to me. What is the next biggest known single cell'

Fri, 21 Nov 2008 01:13:00 UTC | #274096

Not the Messiah's Avatar Comment 21 by Not the Messiah

Anyone else wondering what they taste like?..

Fri, 21 Nov 2008 01:23:00 UTC | #274099

Quetzalcoatl's Avatar Comment 22 by Quetzalcoatl

Not the Messiah-

Like slime, probably. Try some of the algae on a pond, the taste will probably be comparable.

Bicycle Repair Man-

I agree, that's a stupid thing to say, the fundies will be jumping all over it. It's just as likely that prior to the ten million year period there were complex creatures, but their bodies weren't quite hard enough to fossilise well. Improvements in predation techniques could easily have led to a corresponding defensive response within that timescale.

Fri, 21 Nov 2008 01:25:00 UTC | #274100

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 23 by irate_atheist

20. Comment #287919 by bendigeidfran -

What is the next biggest known single cell?
Wooter's brain.

Fri, 21 Nov 2008 02:10:00 UTC | #274109

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 24 by Stafford Gordon


Our twin daughters are being offered places on biology courses at a number of universities; they're both passionate about the subject and are also studying maths, further maths and chemistry.

There couldn't be a better time for it.

I must hasten to add, that their intellegence comes from their mother's side and not mine alas; but I'm learning a lot.

Fri, 21 Nov 2008 02:25:00 UTC | #274113

Anvil's Avatar Comment 25 by Anvil


Anyone else wondering what they taste like?..

Chicken, apparently...
Read a real interesting book on the development of the 'eye' as a prime mover in the Cambrian Explosion; proto-trilobites open their proto-eyes and go 'Look lads... Lunch' starting an arms race that lasted till round about now. Will shoot off and try and find it... (did that) 'In the blink of an eye: How vision kick-started the big bang of evolution' - Andrew Parker. ISBN 0-7432-5733-2

sorry, forgot the eye is irreducibly complex.

Fri, 21 Nov 2008 02:38:00 UTC | #274114

DoctorE's Avatar Comment 26 by DoctorE

WOW, this is facinating!!!

Fri, 21 Nov 2008 02:47:00 UTC | #274116

DamnDirtyApe's Avatar Comment 27 by DamnDirtyApe

Giant single celled organism... AARRGHH!!! THE BLOB!

Fri, 21 Nov 2008 03:52:00 UTC | #274141

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 28 by SaganTheCat

this is awesome


"Single-Celled Giant Upends Early Evolution"

translates to me as "Scientists admit Evolution is a big lie: REPENT! they're going to hell, it's not too late for you"

or something

Fri, 21 Nov 2008 04:03:00 UTC | #274145

SilentMike's Avatar Comment 29 by SilentMike

"It wasn't a gradual development of complexity," Matz said. "Instead these things suddenly seemed to burst out of a magic box."

It's a 10 million year long "explosion" for crying out loud. It may be a bit fast in geological terms, but it's certainly gradual.

Fri, 21 Nov 2008 06:06:00 UTC | #274246

Ishruul's Avatar Comment 30 by Ishruul

Finally a picture of the cute little critter. Screw snail race, Gromia sphaerica kick ass ;)

Fri, 21 Nov 2008 06:54:00 UTC | #274283