Canada, Science, Geology

Canada, Science

Canadian geologist may have found earliest sign of animal life on Earth

Canadian scientist Elizabeth Turner may have found the earliest sign of animal life on Earth after she discovered a sponge fossil dating back 890 million years

7/29/2021 11:00:00 AM

Canadian scientist Elizabeth Turner may have found the earliest sign of animal life on Earth after she discovered a sponge fossil dating back 890 million years

The discovery of a sponge fossil dating back 890 million years would, if confirmed, show the first animals evolved before a time when oxygen in the atmosphere and ocean reached a level scientists once thought was necessary for animal life.

The dating of adjacent rock layers indicates the samples are about 890 million years old, which would make them about 350 million years older than the oldest undisputed sponge fossils previously found.“What’s most stunning is the timing,” said Paco Cardenas, an expert on sponges at Sweden's Uppsala University, who was not involved in the research. “To have discovered sponge fossils from close to 900 million years ago will greatly improve our understanding of early animal evolution.”

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Many scientists believe the first animal groups included soft sponges or sponge-like creatures that lack muscles and nerves but have other features of simple animals, including cells with differentiated functions and sperm.READ MORE:'Dragon Man': Scientists say new human species is our closest ancestor

To be sure, there’s very little scientific consensus or certainty about anything dating back a billion years ago, so other researchers will likely continue to vet and debate Turner's findings.“I think she’s got a pretty strong case. I think this is very worthy of publishing — it puts the evidence out there for other people to consider,” said David Bottjer, a paleobiologist at University of Southern California, who was not involved in the research. headtopics.com

Scientists believe life on Earth emerged around 3.7 billion years ago. The earliest animals appeared much later, but exactly when is still debated.Until now, the oldest undisputed fossil sponges date to around 540 million years ago, an era called the Cambrian period.

But scientists using a line of reasoning called the molecular clock — where they analyse the rate of genetic mutations to backdate when two species likely diverged — say that available evidence points to sponges emerging much earlier, around a billion years ago.

Yet no supporting physical evidence has yet been found until now.“This would be the first time that a sponge fossil has been found from before the Cambrian, and not only before, but way before — that’s what’s most exciting,” said Uppsala University’s Cardenas, adding that the research seems to confirm the molecular clock estimates.

Fossil evidence is scant before the Cambrian period when animals first developed hard skeletons, exoskeletons and shells, which are more likely to be preserved.“Those kinds of fossils belong to more complicated animals — obviously there has to be a back history” of simpler animals like sponges emerging first, said the paper's author Turner, who is based at Laurentian University in Ontario. headtopics.com

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The dating of 890 million years ago is significant because, if the sponge's identification is confirmed, it shows that the first animals evolved before a time when oxygen in the atmosphere and ocean reached a level scientists once thought was necessary for animal life. Yet recent research shows that some sponges can survive with very little oxygen.

“Everything on Earth has an ancestor. It’s always been predicted that the first evidence of animal life would be small and cryptic, a very subtle clue,” said Roger Summons, an MIT geobiologist who was not involved in the research. Read more: TRT World »

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Oldest fossils of animals may be in Canada rocks, study saysA geologist has discovered rocks in Canada that may contain sponge fossils dating back 890 million years — potentially making them the earliest fossil record of animal life on Earth. Scientists will likely continue to vet and debate the published findings. AuntieTeju - 'A Canadian geologist' 😉 Oh wow this is all code for. Removing the mountain top to extract resources. Yay….. I love my planet PattyArquette Gonna dig up my yard and be a millionaire!

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