According to a new search, simple animal life may have existed in Earth’s oceans 890 million years ago. Belonging to ancient sponges, recently discovered fossils might be the earliest known remnants of an animal body and 350 million years pre-date other sponge fossils. Elizabeth Turner, paleontology and sedimentary geology professor at Laurentian University in Ontario, found what she thinks are possibly millions of years ago the fossilized structures of sponges that once existed in reefs. In northwestern Canada, in the rock samples, they were found. In the Journal Nature published on Wednesday a study on Turner’s findings.
Animal life’s emergence on Earth earliest days, little is known about that because the fossil record is sparse. While scientist has used genetic evidence to suggest that sponges 1st appear during the early Neoproterozoic era between 541 million and 1,000 million years ago. A lack of fossilized sponges creates the knowledge gap. Turner’s discovery could fill that gap and provide a glimpse into the earliest marine animal life on Earth.
According to Turner, “I serendipitously came across a few very rare examples of the material during my unrelated Ph.D. research, long ago, on fossil microbial reefs. “When I became a professor and had my own grants, I was able to return to the field sites and collect more material so that I had a more robust collection to work from.”
The thing she found in the ancient rock samples was fossilized structures that resembled skeletons like those within horny sponges, the kind used for a bath sponge. Horny sponges, also known as modern keratose demosponges, have a skeleton with three-dimensional branching made of a tough organic substance called spongin. Mineral calcite crystals covered the tube-shaped structures of the branched networks. Structures found in calcium carbonate rocks appeared similar and were likely created when horny sponge bodies decayed.
“This organic skeleton is very characteristic, and there are not known comparable structures,” said Joachim Reitner, a professor in the University of Goettingen’s department of geobiology who reviewed Turner’s study ahead of publication.