On the News | Fossils may be earliest known multicellular life: study @ France Presse


On the News @ France Presse


Title: 

Fossils may be earliest known multicellular life: study


Excerpt:

An X-ray of a fossilised gas bubble containing 2.4- billion-year-old creatures (AFP Photo/Stefan Bengtson)

“Fossils accidentally discovered in South Africa are probably the oldest fungi ever found by a margin of 1.2 billion years, rewriting the evolutionary story of these organisms which are neither flora nor fauna, researchers said Monday.

If verified as both fungal and multicellular, the 2.4 billion-year-old microscopic creatures — whose slender filaments are bundled together like brooms — could also be the earliest known specimens of the branch of life to which humans belong, they reported in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Up to now, the first fossil trace of eukaryotes — the “superkingdom” that includes plants, animals and fungi, but not bacteria — dates to only 1.9 billion years ago.

Earth itself is about 4.6 billion years old.

The ancient fungus-like life forms, found in fossilised gas bubbles 800 metres (2,600 feet) underground in South Africa’s Northern Cape Province, are remarkable not just for their age but their origin, the researchers said.

It has long been assumed that fungi first emerged on land, but the newly-found organisms lived and thrived under an ancient ocean seabed, tucked in the crevices of volcanic rock.

Nobody was looking for them, explained co-author Birger Rasmussen, a geology professor at Curtin University in Bentley, Australia who was examining lava samples from the Ongeluk Formation to determine their age.

– It screamed ‘life’ –

“My attention was drawn to a series of petrified gas bubbles, and when I increased the magnification of the microscope, I was startled,” he recalled.

The bubbles were “filled with hundreds of exquisitely preserved filaments that just screamed ‘life’,” he wrote by email.” (…) READ MORE

Lurdes Fonseca

Assistant Professor and Researcher at University of Lisbon
Sociologist (PhD), Paleontologist (Researcher in Micropaleontology), Majors in Sociology and Biology, Minor in Geology. Main interests in Paleontology: Microfossils, Molecular fossils, Paleobiology and Paleoecology. (read more about me)