Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

558 million-year-old fat reveals earliest known animal

21.09.2018

An international team of scientists has discovered molecules of fat in an ancient fossil to reveal the earliest confirmed animal in the geological record that lived on Earth 558 million years ago. The team was led by The Australian National University and included scientists from the German Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry and University of Bremen as well as the Russian Academy of Science. Their recent results are published in the journal Science.

The strange creature called Dickinsonia, which grew up to 1.4 metres in length and was oval shaped with rib-like segments running along its body, was part of the Ediacara Biota that lived on Earth 20 million years prior to the ‘Cambrian explosion’ of modern animal life. PhD scholar Ilya Bobrovskiy from The Australian National University (ANU) discovered a Dickinsonia fossil so well preserved in a remote area near the White Sea in the northwest of Russia that the tissue still contained fossil remnants of cholesterol, a type of fat that is the hallmark of animal life.


Organically preserved Dickinsonia fossil from the White Sea area of Russia

Ilya Bobrovskiy, ANU

“The fossil fat molecules that we’ve found prove that animals were large and abundant 558 million years ago, millions of years earlier than previously thought,” said Associate Professor Jochen Brocks, lead senior researcher from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences.

“Scientists have been fighting for more than 75 years over what Dickinsonia and other bizarre fossils of the Edicaran Biota were: giant single-celled amoeba, lichen, failed experiments of evolution or the earliest animals on Earth. The fossil fat now confirms Dickinsonia as the oldest known fossil belonging to the animal kingdom, solving a decades-old mystery that has been the Holy Grail of palaeontology.”

By analysing fat molecules the team developed a new approach to study Dickinsonia fossils, which hold the key between the old world dominated by bacteria and the world of large animals that emerged 540 million years ago during the ‘Cambrian explosion’. In that era complex animals and other macroscopic organisms – such as molluscs, worms, arthropods and sponges – began to dominate the fossil record.

This is where Christian Hallmann and his team, experts in studies of fossil steroid molecules from the German Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry and the University of Bremen came into play. “We had to exclude that Dickinsonia could be protists, single-celled eukaryotes of the lowest organization level, a theory previously followed by others”, postdoctoral researcher Benjamin Nettersheim says.

To this end they systematically studied the lipid composition of various rhizarian protists and artificially aged the biomass of these organisms to make them comparable to the fossils. “The pattern is completely different” says Hallmann, which clearly excludes this old theory.

“The problem that we had to overcome was finding Dickinsonia fossils that retained some organic matter,” said Mr Bobrovskiy from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences. Most rocks containing these fossils such as those from the Ediacara Hills in Australia have endured a lot of heat, a lot of pressure, and then they were weathered after that.

“Our fossils were located in the middle of cliffs of the White Sea that are 60 to 100 metres high and could only be reached by abseiling”. The unique preservation of Ediacara fossils at this remote locality may hold even far more clues towards the nature of our earliest animal ancestors.

Wissenschaftliche Ansprechpartner:

Dr. Christian Hallmann
Max Planck Research Group Leader

Tel: +49 (0)421 218 65 820
challmann[at]bgc-jena.mpg.de

Originalpublikation:

Ilya Bobrovskiy, Janet M. Hope, Andrey Ivantsov, Benjamin J. Nettersheim, Christian Hallmann, Jochen J. Brocks (2018)
Ancient steroids establish the Ediacaran fossil Dickinsonia as one of the earliest animals
Science, Sept 21, published online

Weitere Informationen:

https://www.marum.de/wir-ueber-uns/AG-Hallmann.html Website of the Group

Dr. Eberhard Fritz | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Do ice cores help to unravel the clouds of climate history?
21.06.2019 | Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (TROPOS)

nachricht News from the diamond nursery
21.06.2019 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fraunhofer IDMT demonstrates its method for acoustic quality inspection at »Sensor+Test 2019« in Nürnberg

From June 25th to 27th 2019, the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology IDMT in Ilmenau (Germany) will be presenting a new solution for acoustic quality inspection allowing contact-free, non-destructive testing of manufactured parts and components. The method which has reached Technology Readiness Level 6 already, is currently being successfully tested in practical use together with a number of industrial partners.

Reducing machine downtime, manufacturing defects, and excessive scrap

Im Focus: Successfully Tested in Praxis: Bidirectional Sensor Technology Optimizes Laser Material Deposition

The quality of additively manufactured components depends not only on the manufacturing process, but also on the inline process control. The process control ensures a reliable coating process because it detects deviations from the target geometry immediately. At LASER World of PHOTONICS 2019, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be demonstrating how well bi-directional sensor technology can already be used for Laser Material Deposition (LMD) in combination with commercial optics at booth A2.431.

Fraunhofer ILT has been developing optical sensor technology specifically for production measurement technology for around 10 years. In particular, its »bd-1«...

Im Focus: The hidden structure of the periodic system

The well-known representation of chemical elements is just one example of how objects can be arranged and classified

The periodic table of elements that most chemistry books depict is only one special case. This tabular overview of the chemical elements, which goes back to...

Im Focus: MPSD team discovers light-induced ferroelectricity in strontium titanate

Light can be used not only to measure materials’ properties, but also to change them. Especially interesting are those cases in which the function of a material can be modified, such as its ability to conduct electricity or to store information in its magnetic state. A team led by Andrea Cavalleri from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg used terahertz frequency light pulses to transform a non-ferroelectric material into a ferroelectric one.

Ferroelectricity is a state in which the constituent lattice “looks” in one specific direction, forming a macroscopic electrical polarisation. The ability to...

Im Focus: Determining the Earth’s gravity field more accurately than ever before

Researchers at TU Graz calculate the most accurate gravity field determination of the Earth using 1.16 billion satellite measurements. This yields valuable knowledge for climate research.

The Earth’s gravity fluctuates from place to place. Geodesists use this phenomenon to observe geodynamic and climatological processes. Using...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on UV LED Technologies & Applications – ICULTA 2020 | Call for Abstracts

24.06.2019 | Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

For a better climate in the cities: Start-up develops maintenance-free, evergreen moss façades

25.06.2019 | Architecture and Construction

An ion channel with a doorkeeper: The pH of calcium ions controls ion channel opening

25.06.2019 | Life Sciences

Cooling with the sun

25.06.2019 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>