Oldest animal fossils of all time could be ancient sponges found in Canada


A geologist in Canada may have discovered ancient sponge fossils dating back 890 million years, which is 350 million years older than the earliest undisputed sponge fossils.

Fossilized structures found in rock samples potentially show sponges that existed in underwater reefs millions of years ago. The finds could represent the oldest animal fossils found, Laurentian University professor Elizabeth Turner said in an article published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Scientists have estimated that sponges predated more complicated creatures over 540 million years ago; however, there is a lack of fossilized sponges discovered by scientists that would prove the chronology of the first creatures.

The fossils discovered by Turner resemble skeletons found in some modern sponges known as keratotic demosponges. Skeletons are made up of segments that look like connected branches of a tree.

The geologist told USA TODAY that her discovery intrigues scientists and non-scientists alike, all of whom could learn more about the birth history of animals – and humans.

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“We are animals,” Turner said. “And we’ve got a big brain, and we’re able to ask ourselves questions, and we wonder how we got to be.

“What happened before and how was it? How did it start? ” she said. “It’s really digging in there. I shake the basket of apples.

If the age of the fossils discovered by Turner turns out to be true, organisms would have lived on Earth before there was enough oxygen to support animal life and before the widespread ice ages, scientists say.

The fossils were found in a remote area of ​​northwestern Canada accessible only by helicopter.

Turner told USA TODAY that some critics might question his findings based on Earth’s oxygen levels and the conditions the sponges might have faced.

“Here I say, ‘Uh-oh, the first animals appeared before that. So they didn’t need that oxygen. So people may not be that comfortable with it, ”Turner said.

“It’s not the holy grail,” she noted. “It’s just a step towards a better view of animal evolution.”

The sponge-like creatures are believed to have lived in reefs made from bacteria that may have created enough oxygen for the sponges to survive, according to reports.

“We know there must have been a hidden evolutionary time, episode or interval in animals before 540 million years ago,” Turner said. “The question is, how far back did it go and what was it like?” This is the big hole.

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