Life forms “went large” a billion years ago


Life was already organising itself into large communities of cells more than a billion years ago, according to evidence from China.

The centimetre-scale life forms were preserved in mudstones from the Yanshan area in the country’s north and are dated to 1.56 billion years ago.

Fossils big enough to be seen by the naked eye became common between 635 and 541 million years ago.

But the latest specimens are more than twice that age.

The findings by a Chinese-American team of researchers appear in the journal Nature Communications.

The mysterious organisms from the Gaoyuzhuang rock formation appear to belong to the branch of life known as the eukaryotes, which today includes everything from single-celled amoebae to plants, fungi and animals.

The sea-dwelling life forms probably lived on the shelf areas of ancient oceans and bear a superficial resemblance to algae. They also appear to have used photosynthesis, the process by which plants, some bacteria and other simple organisms convert sunlight into chemical energy.

Prof Andrew Knoll, from Harvard University, a co-author of the paper, said the organism represented by the Chinese fossils was “large but I doubt that it was complicated – an important distinction”.

He told me: “You’re a good example of a complex multi-cellular organism because you have 250 cell types, dozens of tissues, different organ systems.

“On the other hand if you go to the beach you will find seaweeds that consist of a sheet of cells that are almost all identical. Most of them can either photosynthesise or be used for reproduction.”

The team, including Prof Knoll and Shixing Zhu from the China Geological Survey in Tianjin, found that life in this ancient period had already developed a variety of forms.

Of 53 separate specimens, 26 (49%) were linear in shape, 16 (30%) were wedge-shaped, eight (15%) were tongue-shaped and three (6%) were oblong-shaped.

The marine organisms measured up to 30cm in length and up to 8cm wide. Some of the specimens revealed fine structure: a closely-packed arrangement of individual cells measuring about 10 micrometres long – which is the same as the width of cotton fibre.

Examples of multi-cellular life dating back more than a billion-and-a-half years have been described before. They include Horodyskia, which was shaped like a strings of beads, and Grypania, a coiled, ribbon-like organism.

But the diversity of forms and the size of the fossils from Yanshan mark them out.

The researchers say the fossils are unlikely to be of agglomerations of bacteria known as microbial mats, and instead are probably early examples of eukaryotic organisms.

If so, the organisms suggest multi-cellularity was a feature of marine life a billion years before the so-called Cambrian explosion, a rapid evolutionary event that began 542 million years ago and resulted in the divergence of major animal groups.

Some scientists partly attribute this evolutionary flowering to a rise in oxygen levels, although the causes are the matter of continuing debate.

The findings also suggest that the preceding era, characterised by lower oxygen levels and sometimes referred to as the “boring billion”, may have been misjudged.


“The team, including Prof Knoll and Shixing Zhu from the China Geological Survey in Tianjin, found that life in this ancient period had already developed a variety of forms.”

and i thought the science was settled??

“the organisms suggest multi-cellularity was a feature of marine life a billion years before the so-called Cambrian explosion, a rapid evolutionary event that began 542 million years ago and resulted in the divergence of major animal groups.”


~ by seeker401 on June 7, 2016.

3 Responses to “Life forms “went large” a billion years ago”

  1. We did not come from “algae”. There are no simple life forms all life forms
    are complex beyond measure.

    The human genome is estimated to have as few as 30-45,000 functional genes, while Oryza sativa (rice) has between 32,000 and 56,000 functional genes. The earthworm, Caenorhabditis elegans, has 19,000 genes and the plant, Arabidopsis thaliana has 25,000 genes.

    “Modern apes, for instance, seem to have sprung out of nowhere. They have no yesterday, no fossil record. And the true origin of modern humans – of upright, naked, tool-making, big-brained beings – is, if we are to be honest with ourselves, an equally mysterious matter.”

    Dr. Lyall Watson, Anthropologist

    ”We’re not just evolving slowly,” Gould says, ”for all practical purposes we’re not evolving. There’s no reason to think we’re going to get bigger brains or smaller toes or whatever – we are what we are.”

    Stephen Jay Gould ( Professor of Geology and Paleontology, Harvard University )

    “…not being a paleontologist, I don’t want to pour too much scorn on paleontologists, but if you were to spend your life picking up bones and finding little fragments of head and little fragments of jaw, there’s a very strong desire to exaggerate the importance of those fragments…”

    Dr. Greg Kirby (Senior Lecturer in Population Biology at Flinders University ) in an address given at a meeting of the Biology Teachers Association of South Australia.

    • dr. lyall watson – discredited new ager

      stephen jay gould – he is talking about “punctuated equilibrium.” he is a proponent of the evolution theory

      greg kirby – the statement was made during a debate in which dr. kirby was representing the pro-evolution side

      mendacity is the bedrock of god-belief.

      (have you figured out yet that i never read your silly replies when i call you on your lies?)

      • No I expect your arrogance in advance – and your silly rebuttals

        There is absolutely no evidence for evolution and you provide none – your usual mode of debate being ad hominen attacks .

        If the evolutionists admit there is no evidence then where’s yours

        There’s no escape with fake science xxx – we all have to face our creator

        “It is easy enough to make up stories of how one form gave rise to another, and to find reasons why the stages should be favored by natural selection. But such stories are not part of science, for there is no way of putting them to the test.”

        Personal letter from Dr Collin Patterson, Senior Paleontologist at the British Museum of Natural History in London, to Luther D. Sunderland

        “Biologists are simply naive when they talk about experiments designed to test the theory of evolution. It is not testable. They may happen to stumble across facts which would seem to conflict with its predictions. These facts will invariably be ignored and their discoverers will undoubtedly be deprived of continuing research grants.”

        Professor Whitten (Professor of Genetics, University of Melbourne, Australia)

        It’s all just a load of rubbish then :-

        “One of the reasons I started taking this anti-evolutionary view, was … it struck me that I had been working on this stuff for twenty years and there was not one thing I knew about it. That’s quite a shock to learn that one can be so misled so long. …so for the last few weeks I’ve tried putting a simple question to various people and groups of people. Question is: Can you tell me anything you know about evolution, any one thing that is true? I tried that question on the geology staff at the Field Museum of Natural History and the only answer I got was silence. I tried it on the members of the Evolutionary Morphology Seminar in the University of Chicago, a very prestigious body of evolutionists, and all I got there was silence for a long time and eventually one person said, ‘I do know one thing — it ought not to be taught in high school’.”

        Dr. Colin Patterson, Senior Paleontologist, British Museum of Natural History, London Keynote address at the American Museum of Natural History, New York City

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