500-million-year-old ‘strange’ life form identified

(ORDO NEWS) — An international team of scientists has re-examined the 500-million-year-old Protomelission gateshousei fossilized organic remains, which were still considered the oldest animal remains.

However, a new study showed that these were not animals at all.

Scientists have re-examined the remains, which at one time made a real sensation in the scientific world. The tiny fossils, dubbed Protomelission gateshousei, have been found in a mountainous area in southern China.

After a laboratory study, they were recognized as bryozoan, and for the first time, remains of soft tissues were found in fossilized samples.

Let us clarify that bryozoans are a type of protostomes from the clade Lophophorata.

The discovery forced scientists to rewrite the evolution of bryozoans, since the very existence of animals of this age, and it is about 500 million years, does not fit into the generally accepted theory of the Cambrian explosion.

“We tend to think of the Cambrian explosion as a unique period in the history of evolution, when all the blueprints for animal life were mapped out,” says palaeontologist Martin Smith of Durham University.

A feature of the Cambrian explosion is that after it, as it is believed, a very rapid development of various animal species on Earth began.

Bryozoans did not fit into this theory until a sensational discovery was made. Recently, however, scientists have decided to re-examine the fossils.

As a result, new discoveries were made that refute the already new theory about bryozoans. Now scientists say the remains represent a “strange life form” that is not an animal.

They were re-identified as marine green algae belonging to the Dasycladales group. This conclusion will also force us to take a different look at evolution.

The researchers suggest that algae may have played a much more important role in the Cambrian explosion and the rapid increase in biodiversity than previously thought.

“Previous fossils only preserved the skeleton of early organisms, but our new samples showed what was inside these “chambers,” says paleontologist Zhang Xiguang from Yunnan University in China.

“Instead of the tentacles that we expected to see in bryozoans, we found simple leaf-shaped protrusions and realized that we were not looking at fossils, but at seaweeds.”

However, a new discovery has created a new mystery, because now it turns out that bryozoans are the only early living creature that did not appear during the Cambrian explosion, but was born about 40 million years after it.

However, scientists do not exclude that the fossilized remains of bryozoans from the time of the Cambrian explosion will be found in new studies.


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