650-Million-Year-Old Fossils Are Earliest Animal Life, Scientists Say





Fossils of what could be the oldest animal bodies have been discovered in Australia, pushing back the clock on when animal life first appeared on Earth to at least 70 million years earlier than previously thought.

The results suggest that primitive sponge-like creatures lived in ocean reefs about 650 million years ago. Digital images of the fossils suggest the animals were about a centimeter in size (the width of your small fingertip) and had irregularly shaped bodies with a network of internal canals.

The shelly fossils, found beneath a 635 million-year-old glacial deposit in South Australia, represent the earliest evidence of animal body forms in the current fossil record. Previously, the oldest known fossils of hard-bodied animals were from two reef-dwelling organisms that lived around 550 million years ago.

Researchers have identified controversial fossils of soft-bodied animals that date to the latter part of the Ediacaran period between 577 and 542 million years ago.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Earth Sciences....


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