Feeds

‘Oldest animals’ show up in Namibian dig

Ancient sponge the granddaddy of us all

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

For now, anyhow, the starting date for highly-organised life has gained a new record, with a dig in Namibia yielding up sponge fossils dated somewhere between 100 and 150 million years earlier than anything else yet found.

While the tiny sponges, turned up by British and African researchers in sites including Namibia’s Etosha National Park, are only dust-speck sized, scanning electron microscope examination of them has turned up characteristics that suggest the fossils are sponges rather than non-biological features.

In particular, the researchers say, the Otavia examples found show pores (which allowed the sponges to feed on bacteria and algae), and are shaped in a way that would have allowed them to form raised mounds.

But it’s the date that has the researchers buzzing. At around 750 million years old, the fossils are between 100 and 150 million years older than any other multicellular organism yet identified.

Very simple by today’s standards – for example, it lacked a gut, so nutrients would have had to be absorbed directly into the cells for digestion – the Otavia was also tough. It survived in a lower-oxygen atmosphere that now exists, and also lived through one of Earth’s biggest cold spells, dubbed the “snowball Earth” events that may have taken place 650 million years ago.

Otavia fossil example

Otavia fossil from Etosha National Park showing "feeding holes".

The scalebar is 100 microns. South African Journal of Science

Otavia may have survived not one, but two such events.

Paleontologist and hominid specialist Dr Bob Brain, who lead the 10-strong team, explained to South Africa’s The Star that he was looking for fossils to help illuminate the history of predation.

The research is published as an open-access article in the South African Journal of Science.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.