Earlier start to multicellular life?

Newly uncovered fossils hint that multicellular life may have evolved more than 2 billion years ago -- some 200 million years earlier than previously expected, according to a study published this week in Nature. Reconstruction of a specimen from Gabonshowing the peripheral radial fabricand inner structural organizationImage: A. El AlbaniThe fossils are "not really [what] you expect to find in the rock record 2 billion years before present," said paleontologist linkurl:Philip Donoghue;http://ww

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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Jun 29, 2010
Newly uncovered fossils hint that multicellular life may have evolved more than 2 billion years ago -- some 200 million years earlier than previously expected, according to a study published this week in Nature.
Reconstruction of a specimen from Gabon
showing the peripheral radial fabric
and inner structural organization

Image: A. El Albani
The fossils are "not really [what] you expect to find in the rock record 2 billion years before present," said paleontologist linkurl:Philip Donoghue;http://www.gly.bris.ac.uk/people/pcjd.html of the University of Bristol, who was not involved in the research. "These fossils are centimeters in size" and "relatively thick" -- too large to be just a single cell, he said. The once-biological shapes carved out of black shale formations in Africa outdate the next oldest example of what may have been multicellular life by about 200 million years. Unfortunately, "there's nothing preserved inside," said Donoghue, who wrote an accompanying perspective. "You...
The ScientistA. El Albani, et al., "Large colonial organisms with coordinated growth in oxygenated environments 2.1 Gyr ago," Nature, 466:100-4, 2010.



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