Fossils may be 'earliest animals'
By JONATHAN AMOS - BBC
Added: Thu, 19 Aug 2010 03:28:02 UTC
Thanks to serendipitydawg for the link.
Tiny, irregularly shaped fossils from South Australia could be the oldest remains of simple animal life found to date.
The collection of circles, anvils, wishbones and rings discovered in the Flinders Ranges are most probably sponges, a Princeton team claims.
The rocks in which the forms were found are 640-650 million years old.
This is at least 70 million years older than some other claims for the most ancient animals in the fossil record.
The research, led by Professor Adam Maloof, is published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
"People have certainly proposed complex organisms, like eukaryotic algae or protists, and have even proposed animals in the form of trace fossils (preserved tracks) prior to the sponges that we report," he said.
"But I think we could confidently say that our sponges are the first somewhat convincing body fossils of an animal before the Ediacaran Period."
The Ediacaran, which came at the end of the last great global glaciation, produced indisputable evidence for animal life - slug-like organisms called Kimberalla, whose remains are found today in 555-million-year-old sediments in Australia and Russia.
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