Thursday, July 1, 2010

Missing News: Palaeoproterozoic fossils push back the age for multicellular life.

COMMENT: The Australian cover one of the most significant stories in palaeontology for the decade. ABC Science on the other hand appear slow off the mark. We'll wait and see if they provide any coverage...

Fossils found in Gabon rewrite timeline of life on Earth

FOSSILS discovered in west Africa have pushed back the dawn of multicellular life on Earth by at least 1.5 billion years, scientists believe.

From Nature's Editor Summary:
A series of well preserved centimetre-scale fossils in an extended fossiliferous level within black shales near Franceville, in Gabon, West Africa, provides a glimpse of perhaps the earliest form of multicellular life so far discovered. Evidence for multicellular life before the Mesoproterozoic era (1.6–1.0 billion years ago) is scarce and controversial. These new finds are from sediments dated at 2.1 billion years old, not long after the rise in atmospheric oxygen concentration and about a billion and a half years before the rapid expansion in multicellular life forms known as the 'Cambrian explosion'. The fossils are variously sized and shaped remains of well-structured soft-bodied organisms, some exhibiting wrinkles suggestive of flexible sheet-like structures. Their shape and regular fabric indicate a multicellular degree of organization. These fossils may represent the earliest evidence so far reported for cell-to-cell signalling and coordinated growth behaviour on the scale of macroorganisms.

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