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Biotech Australia Education Science

Did Sea Life Arise Twice? 238

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the shoulda-got-it-right-the-first-time dept.
eldavojohn writes "Dr. Adam Maloof has found fossils of sea sponges in Australia from 650 million years ago. You might think this is no big deal unless you consider that sea sponges were thought to have arisen 520 million years ago. These fossils predate the oldest hard bodied fossils we have by a hundred million years. Dr. Maloof is now wondering if life might have arisen twice after the first attempt was quashed 635 million years ago: 'Since animals probably did not evolve twice, we are suddenly confronted with the question of how some relative of these reef-dwelling animals survived the Snowball Earth.' So how is it that life survived the Marinoan glaciation? The BBC has a video on the topic and Wikipedia has a time line of the Proterozoic Eon into the Paleozoic Era."
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Did Sea Life Arise Twice?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @10:20AM (#33288934)

    You know how they say evolution would be falsified by a bunny in the pre-cambrian.

    Well, it's not a bunny, but it's not in the stratum it's supposed to be.

    Time to stop teaching the discredited theory of evolution.

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @10:31AM (#33289142) Journal

      You know how they say evolution would be falsified by a bunny in the pre-cambrian.

      Well, it's not a bunny, but it's not in the stratum it's supposed to be.

      Time to stop teaching the discredited theory of evolution.

      *stares blankly for a moment*

      I don't want to live on this planet anymore.

    • by MRe_nl (306212) on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @10:43AM (#33289338)

      "All well and good, but just exactly when is intelligent life due to evolve"?

      - Kevin Gilmer, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne England, 18/8/2010 14:48
      Click to rate Rating 5

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Z00L00K (682162)

        A more interesting question would be - have we had intelligent life before on Earth?

        Just consider that intelligent life doesn't necessarily mean that there was technology involved. If the intelligence was used for a philosophical society or that the entities having intelligence didn't have hands then the development of tools would have been harder.

    • by jeffmeden (135043) on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @11:23AM (#33289960) Homepage Journal

      You know how they say evolution would be falsified by a bunny in the pre-cambrian.

      Well, it's not a bunny, but it's not in the stratum it's supposed to be.

      Time to stop teaching the discredited theory of evolution.

      Not to mention that General Relativity and Quantum Relativity don't mix... obviously they are both wrong and we can quit teaching Newtonian physics in school too! I think we are really on to something. If we weed out all the nonsense being taught, we will have enough time in the day to bring back art class!

      • by WCguru42 (1268530)

        we can quit teaching Newtonian physics in school

        I'm fairly certain you were being sarcastic in your post but relativity doesn't invalidate Newtonian physics. Newtonian physics is still correct, it's just less accurate than relativity and quantum mechanics.

        • by jeffmeden (135043)

          we can quit teaching Newtonian physics in school

          I'm fairly certain you were being sarcastic in your post but relativity doesn't invalidate Newtonian physics. Newtonian physics is still correct, it's just less accurate than relativity and quantum mechanics.

          Newton was a hack... That apple was perturbed, I tell you, PERTURBED [wikipedia.org]!!!

          (Newtonian physics and Einsteinian physics are close enough for me, at least to make jokes about)

      • Not to mention that General Relativity and Quantum Relativity don't mix... obviously they are both wrong and we can quit teaching Newtonian physics in school too! I think we are really on to something. If we weed out all the nonsense being taught, we will have enough time in the day to bring back art class!

        Surely you mean "bible class.". Art class is still for decadent elites.

    • Huh? Why would finding some earlier animal life falsify evolution? This article reeks of crappy reporting and someone trying to make a discovery sound bigger than it is. I'm waiting for some moron to shout "paradigm shift" next.

    • by gmuslera (3436)

      You know how they say evolution would be falsified by a bunny in the pre-cambrian. Well, it's not a bunny, but it's not in the stratum it's supposed to be. Time to stop teaching the discredited theory of evolution

      You won't find any. God didnt make mistakes hiding those sneaky fossils everywhere. Unless he did it on pourpose to test your faith, but in that case the allknowing one would had not know something. Life has become a bit more complicated since we stop letting the young Occam to play with scissors, knives and other sharp toys.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @10:21AM (#33288954)

    ...because this is Slashdot this story will arise twice for sure. ;)

  • by hessian (467078) on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @10:24AM (#33289018) Homepage Journal

    Life creates itself to fit a niche, through a trial-and-error process called natural selection.

    1. Does this mean life could arise twice, in similar form? Yes, and in fact there's evidence for parallel evolution:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100225214757.htm [sciencedaily.com]

    2. Does this mean that life on other planets arises identically or near-identically to our own, or that the origin of life on earth comes from elsewhere? Possibly:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panspermia [wikipedia.org]

    Basically, life adapting to similar conditions in different areas would have a similar "blueprint" although possibly different DNA reflecting a different route to that end.

    • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @10:56AM (#33289538) Journal

      But scientists can usually tell different species. They may look superficially identical, but they have unique organs which indicate if it's the same species, or a different species that discovered the same niche.

      I think the likely explanation here is that (1) it's the same species at ~500 and ~600 million years ago, and it did survive the extinction because (2) Snowball earth wasn't as harsh as we believe.... there were probably warm zones around the equator for a few sponges to hang-on.

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @10:57AM (#33289552) Homepage Journal

      OK, since I took the two seconds necessary to RTFA, the summary's title is wrong. TFA specifically says NOT that life evolved twice, but that the date the Earth was inhabited was pushed back.

      If correct, the finding would mean that animal life existed before the Marinoan glaciation - a global catastrophe known as 'Snowball Earth' when the entire planet was covered in ice.

      Previously it was believed that animal life first emerged after the Snowball Earth event around 635million years ago.
      Dr Maloof told The Times: 'No one was expecting that we would find animals that lived before the [Snowball Earth] ice age.
      'Since animals probably did not evolve twice, we are suddenly confronted with the question of how some relative of these reef-dwelling animals survived the Snowball Earth.'

      Now I have to read your links, at least the first one. But as to the second,
      Does this mean that life on other planets arises identically or near-identically to our own, or that the origin of life on earth comes from elsewhere?

      There is no proof at all that life exists anywhere else except on earth. When and if we find life elsewhere, than we can make conjecture about panspermia, until then it's just science fiction. Not even junk science.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        There is no proof at all that life exists anywhere else except on earth. When and if we find life elsewhere, than we can make conjecture about panspermia, until then it's just science fiction. Not even junk science.

        The fact that life exists on Earth indicates that it most likely exists elsewhere, since the probability of life isn't equal to zero, and there are a ridiculous number of stars and planets.

        Basically, the burden of proof is on you to say that life exists only on Earth. That scenario is so unlikely as to not even be funny.

        • by mangu (126918) on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @01:28PM (#33291750)

          the probability of life isn't equal to zero, and there are a ridiculous number of stars and planets

          "Ridiculous number of planets" means nothing. For all we know the probability of life could be "ridiculously" small, so small indeed that multiplied by the total number of planets in the universe the product is still so small that life exists only on earth.

          We have indications that this probability is very small. We have two examples of planets in our own stellar system that missed the habitable zone. Venus is so hot that complex molecules are unlikely to exist there. Mars is so cold that water cannot exist in liquid form. It has been conjectured that the moon was essential to the spontaneous creation of life on earth, because otherwise there wouldn't be tidal pools that concentrated the elements in the primitive sea.

          Those are all conjectures, of course, and there may be counterpoints to them, but they are consistent with the hypothesis that life could be an extremely unlikely thing to happen in a planet. At this point the only sensible position is "we don't know" if life exists elsewhere.

          • by lgw (121541)

            That's not quote true. We have lots of evidence that it isn't all that unlikely for life to arise given chemicals common to early systems like the Sun's. Until we discover a specific working path from amino acids to single-celled life, we can't say for sure, but a lot of that path is known and the odds are certainly better than one in a trillion, for example. There are a staggeringly huge number of stars like ours in the universe, so the number of planets we would expect to have life on them is large eno

      • As I understand it a part of this is the assumption that animal life would be improbable to evolve twice. I always like to question assumptions - so let me take a different example and come back to the article shortly:
        A very quick bit of research says that homo sapiens evolved from Homo rhodesiensis (common ancestor with Neanderthals). Now suppose I go back in time and kill off the first Homo Sapien that evolved, or at least exterminated any tribes that showed those leanings.
        I would be astonished that in t

        • by Americano (920576)

          I would be astonished that in that situation provided rhodesiensis still survived and the environment remained relatively similar if Homo Sapiens didn't evolve again - that is, whatever evolutionary pressure pushed rhodesiensis into being more sapiens-like if it was still around should cause a similar evolutionary outcome.

          Because evolution is full of dead ends, and species that diversify to fill their niches. Assuming that homo sapiens could have evolved "again" from h. rhodesiensis is not an incredible st

          • The problem is, your argument would result in a remarkably lower biodiversity than we see at present - there is not "one form only" that is suited for living in a forest, or living in the ocean. Numerous species with varying degrees of variation can all be perfectly well suited for their environmental conditions - evolution is not a deterministic process - selection pressures work on the mutations and variations that arise in a population, there is not some end blueprint that they're working towards.

            I'm not implying that there is some true blueprint that we are evolving towards, but one need only look at current life on earth to suggest that a 6 fingered or tailed human evolving from rhodesiensis is very unlikely since they had neither.
            I guess what I was getting at is that in the situation I posted humans would probably be almost identical if not completely genetically compatible with modern humans because the progenitor species would be identical in both cases. Now if I had gone back and killed the fi

            • by Americano (920576)

              I'm not implying that there is some true blueprint that we are evolving towards, but one need only look at current life on earth to suggest that a 6 fingered or tailed human evolving from rhodesiensis is very unlikely since they had neither.

              But these are mutations that still occasionally occur in h. sapiens - polydactyly occurs in ~1-in-500 births, I'm sure it could have happened to h. rhodesiensis as well... and really, the question is, would that difference be selected *against* enough that it would be ki

      • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @01:36PM (#33291864)

        I've read similar theories (Aquatic ape hypothesis [wikipedia.org]) that stated similar ideas about human evolution. They proposed that humans are poorly adapted to land (relatively speaking). We go through large volumes of water compared to other land based mammals. Humans require far more water and lose more water than most other land based species. We also have very little hair whereas most land based mammals are covered with it. We are also better adapted to water than other apes. The idea was that human ancestors may have been forced back into the oceans, at least partially. Possibly into shallow areas causing adaptions to develop that have changed us in some fundamental way compared to our Ape cousins.

        I have always been intrigued by this theory.

      • by Myopic (18616)

        When and if we find life elsewhere, than we can make conjecture

        Wow! The rare reverse-then-than typo! Seldomly seen in the wild, today we are witness to a rare treat.

        Typoos are a bitch, aren't they?

        Indeed. And I'm just chiding you in good fun, by the way, I mean no offense.

    • by jakosc (649857) * on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @10:58AM (#33289564) Homepage
      Despite the BBC article's title and the slashdot summary, this story is not about whether *life* evolved twice---it's about whether *animals* evolved twice. The issue here is that they have discovered relatively complex sponge-like organisms before a catastrophic event (snowball earth). This means either that 1) snowball earth wasn't that bad, didn't kill them off, and more complex animals (including us) might have evolved from them or 2) it killed them off, and animals evolved a second time once it was over.
      • From TFS:

        Dr. Maloof is now wondering if life might have arisen twice after the first attempt was quashed 635 million years ago: 'Since animals probably did not evolve twice, we are suddenly confronted with the question of how some relative of these reef-dwelling animals survived the Snowball Earth.'

        Doesn't sound like he's wondering to me - in fact, it sounds like he's pretty much ruled it out. WTF?

      • I have difficulty believing that the entirety of the oceans was frozen over during snowball earth. There are hydrothermal vents pumping out heat at more than 700degF. It's not terribly hard to imagine that even if the rest of the ocean was a block of ice, there would be liquid water in the vicinity of these vents. The lucky sponge that happened to settle down in the neighborhood of a vent before the ocean froze over would have a shot at survival assuming the liquid area around the vent was big enough to sup

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Does this mean life could arise twice, in similar form? Yes, and in fact there's evidence for parallel evolution:
      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100225214757.htm [sciencedaily.com]

      I just read your link, and nothing in it suggests paralell evolution. How did you come to that conclusion? It speaks of rapid evolution when saltwater fish are trapped in freshwater lakes, they are comparing the DNA of two closely related species that come from a common anscestor.

      Nobody in any of the fields related to biology (paleont

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        TFA is interesting, TFS is garbage.

        Hey, they should add that as one of the loglines they use up top.

        Slashdot: News for nerds. Stuff that matters.
        Slashdot: It is what IT is.
        Slashdot: TFA is interesting, TFS is garbage.
      • I didn't read his link but the penguin and puffin are examples of parallel evolution. They both have similar colorings but aren't super closely related; the colorings are similar because both species evolved favoring the black/white/orange coloring due to their habitats.

  • by Remus Shepherd (32833) <remus@panix.com> on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @10:30AM (#33289128) Homepage

    More likely, this is evidence that there never was a Snowball Earth. We've never been sure whether the entire Earth froze up or just large areas of it. If creatures lived through the glaciation, that's a good indication that unfrozen regions still existed.

    • by expatriot (903070) on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @10:38AM (#33289254)

      Don't trust Daily Mail interpretations of any thing scientific. Or non-scientific.

      He was on the radio and said:

      He did not consider dual evolution likely and would be surprised if anyone proposed it.

      The dates were not certain, but they were much earlier than previously thought.

      Earlier life existed, but only at single-cell level.

      Heat was most likely provided by volcanic heating or hot water vents. (There are animals present now that have evolved to live in deep water near vents.)

      • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @10:57AM (#33289548) Homepage

        Don't trust Daily Mail interpretations of any thing scientific. Or non-scientific.

        Yes. This. There is a certain amount of cognitive dissonance to be expected when a presumably scientific article is surrounded by such journalistic gems as "Brittany Murphy's mother 'shared bed with daughter's husband after her death'.

        One's head asplodes, it does.

        • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @11:09AM (#33289744) Homepage
          Oh, and, attempting to stay on topic. "Snowball earth" likely did not cause all of the oceans to freeze solid. In fact, it is really unclear just how much glaciation actually occurred - other than the general statement of "a lot". It's not hard to imagine pockets of happy sponges in liquid water hanging around for millions of years (what else are sponges going to do anyway?).

          According to the linked Wikipedia article, even the dating of the 'Cryogenian' period is pretty loose. People need to look at those solid lines separating geologic eras with a grain of salt or at least a Photoshop^HGimp gradient. It's not like God came down and said "OK it's now Cambrian time, lets pop out those hominids riding dinosaurs, and while your at it, lets change the color of the strata to mauve."

          Right?
          • by wiredog (43288)

            what else are sponges going to do anyway?
            I can think of a few things, involving 18 year old redheads, but that would be off-topic.

          • by iamhigh (1252742)
            FW: New Idea

            It's not hard to imagine pockets of happy sponges in liquid water hanging around for millions of years (what else are sponges going to do anyway?).

            Okay Jim, let's give the sponges a bottle of 409 and see if the lazy fuckers can clean up some of that oil!

            Thanks,
            Tony Haywired
            VP of Desperation

      • by vtcodger (957785) on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @12:03PM (#33290576)

        ***Don't trust Daily Mail interpretations of any thing scientific. Or non-scientific.***

        I think you've nailed it. The article appears to be horribly garbled. FWIW, the earliest bacterial fossils are 3.8 billion years old. Fossilized microbial mats are quite common back for hundreds of millions of years before the first animals appeared. Some complex fossils -- probably multicellular colonial assembleges (but maybe not 'animals') of one sort or another -- Chuaria, Tawuia, Grypania --go back a very long time. I think that the oldest previously well established animals are whatever created tracks thru the sediments of the fossil assemblege at Fortune Head Newfoundland 595 million years ago.

    • by DarthVain (724186)

      I thought that this was when Homer Simpson went back and time and sneezed.

    • More likely, this is evidence that there never was a Snowball Earth. We've never been sure whether the entire Earth froze up or just large areas of it.

      But the consensus of climate scientists is that Snowball Earth happened, therefore it's unscientific to question it. Are you a Global Cooling Denialist?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Timeline of evolution" at 03:43, 16 August 2010 [wikipedia.org]

    Note to Slashdot Editors: When used as references, Wikipedia links should be to a specific version of the article.

  • *At least* once... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jemenake (595948) on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @10:49AM (#33289412)
    When I discuss evolution-vs-creationism with some folks, the discussion sometimes steers toward the notion that the coming together of amino acids to form life is this *incredibly* improbable thing, and that it certainly needed the hand of a creator to ensure that it happened on a planet which could support it.

    I then point out to them that *all* we know is that life has been created on this planet *at least* once. It may have happened a million times, for all we know. Out in that vast ocean, there are countless chances for it to happen every day and it very well *may* be happening. Who the hell knows? Any life that we may find out there in the oceans gets attributed to being descended from the *first* occurrence of life... but that might not really be the case.

    So, this notion that life may have arisen twice? I don't find it shocking at all. Okay, I guess I'm a little piqued by the fact that researchers think that they hold *evidence* of it (since that's a little harder to do) but, like I said, I have a hunch this has happened millions of times since the "first time".
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tablizer (95088)

      When I discuss evolution-vs-creationism with some folks, the discussion sometimes steers toward the notion that the coming together of amino acids to form life is this *incredibly* improbable thing...

      One of the strangest Cr. arguments is that life never evolved from scratch in a sealed peanut butter jar. Despite being silly, it got me thinking: what would happen if it did? The person who discovered it would probably just toss it in the trash and nobody would ever know. It's not like everyone runs to the loc

      • by Myopic (18616)

        The peanut-butter-jar argument is actually about a trillion times stupider than even you blame it for. That idiot apparently think that "life" in its simplest form means germs, bacteria, single-cell organisms; and that fallacy belies his incredible ignorance (or intentional misinformation) of evolution. Evolution didn't go from amino acids to bacteria, it went through a bazillion steps in between. What we now know of as a single cell is certainly a conglomeration of different bits and pieces of self-replica

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ktappe (747125)

      I have a hunch this has happened millions of times since the "first time".

      That was my reaction as well. "Why only twice?" If the conditions existed for amino acids to develop and combine, the odds of cellular and multi-cellular life occurring only once would have to be very small indeed. It's a huge planet at the microbial level. Heck, life probably came to be over and over and over again, regardless of whether another pond a kilometer away was having the same thing occur in it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There is conciderable evedence that all the life we know about is related. For example the direction that DNA curles should chemicly speeking be random, yet all known life has the same direction of curl. This implies a bias most easily explaind by all life having a common anscestor at some point. Whether or not life on Earth at one time formed in series and or parallel with several "first generation" life forms is an open question, but as yet there's lots of evedence in favor of the existance of a universal

    • For one thing, even the (misleading) headline doesn't claim that life may have arisen twice. It asks the question whether sea life (in context, meaning multi-cellular sea-life such as sponges). And the headline and summary are, in fact misleading: the guy they're interviewing specifically says it's really unlikely sea animals evolved twice. Finally: read this article [wikipedia.org]. Among the interesting bits of data: based on genomic analysis, it's 10^2860 (not a typo) more likely that all extant life forms had a single

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Tejin (818001)
      It's very unlikely that life is arising from inert chemicals as we speak, because that would lead to all sorts of different kinds of life we don't see. Kinds such as opposite-handed amino users and life that doesn't use ribonucleic acids. All life on earth uses the same type of amino acids and transfers information by DNA/RNA.

      I suppose there's room to mention the theory that life arises all the time but it gets gobbled up by the existing fauna, but we haven't seen it happen, and not for lack of looking.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rich0 (548339)

        Agreed. Life arising, dying out completely, and arising again I could buy - if the earth went through conditions sufficient to sterilize everything.

        Life starting 50X in parallel seems hard to fathom, when half the reason we're so sure that everything evolved is all the homologies. Where are all these creatures that aren't descended from a common ancestor? It should be completely evident in their biochemistry.

    • by jafac (1449)

      I reckon that either possibility is. . . possible. The existence of extremophiles, and also plants and animals that are able to "survive" prolonged periods of poor conditions via morphology (spores, seeds) or biological processes (like hibernation), it's not unreasonable to believe that some animal life survived this prolonged event. Even the Martian climate, which is nearly universally unhospitable has niches where life could possibly exist. . . in warm, protected areas underground, water-bearing rock, e

  • Title a bit off (Score:5, Informative)

    by esocid (946821) on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @10:52AM (#33289492) Journal
    It doesn't speculate that two similar life forms evolved twice. It only asks a question of how they survived glaciation. The molecular evidence pointed to an earlier evolutionary divergence for sponges, but no fossils were found until now.

    The oldest known fossils of hard-bodied animals were two sea-dwelling organisms which lived around 550million years ago, called Namacalathus and Cloudina. But DNA evidence from sponges has suggested that their origins predate this. Marc Laflamme, of Yale University, said the earliest known sponge fossils were about 555million years old. He said: 'We had chemical and molecular evidence of fossils at this time but we weren't finding any real fossil specimens. 'What Adam's group was able to find was first evidence of true fossils of sponges at this time.'

    By law of parsimony, the most likely explanation is that sponges arose once, and survived. While it isn't impossible that two similar organisms evolved from the same organism to fill a niche, it is tough to show evidence that two identically structured organisms arose twice, at different times. Most often when this happens, it happens at relatively close time intervals in physically separated areas, with simple changes. Seeing evidence to the contrary would be amazing, but in molecular evolution and probabilistic modeling, the more assumptions you make, the less robust the results will be, and so far all we have is/are fossils with identical structures.

  • First link is to a trash tabloid-ish site per the ads I saw. Not exactly peer reviewed science.

    All the squealing is oriented around the assumption that the date they calculated is correct, and then wanders into wild speculation.

    However, the cruddy first link carefully avoided any discussion of screwing up the dating.

    Its very easy to improperly date a rock. For example, you can properly calculate the date of individual sand grains. But, its a really bad idea to assume the age of the sand grains equals the

    • by esocid (946821) on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @11:10AM (#33289752) Journal
      Here's a link to the original article, published yesterday. It's subscription based, which is why the OP didn't link to it. http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ngeo934.html [nature.com] Maloof, A.C. et al. 2010. Possible animal-body fossils in pre-Marinoan limestones from South Australia. Nature Geoscience. Published online.

      Abstract:

      The Neoproterozoic era was punctuated by the Sturtian (about 710 million years ago) and Marinoan (about 635million years ago) intervals of glaciation. In South Australia, the rocks left behind by the glaciations are separated by a succession of limestones and shales, which were deposited at tropical latitudes. Here we describe millimetre- to centimetre-scale fossils from the Trezona Formation, which pre-dates the Marinoan glaciation. These weakly calcified fossils occur as anvil, wishbone, ring and perforated slab shapes and are contained within stromatolitic limestones. The Trezona Formation fossils pre-date the oldest known calcified fossils of this size by 90million years, and cannot be separated from the surrounding calcite matrix or imaged by traditional X-ray-based tomographic scanning methods. Instead, we have traced cross-sections of individual fossils by serially grinding and scanning each sample at a resolution of 50.8m. From these images we constructed three-dimensional digital models of the fossils. Our reconstructions show a population of ellipsoidal organisms without symmetry and with a network of interior canals that lead to circular apertures on the fossil surface. We suggest that several characteristics of these reef-dwelling fossils are best explained if the fossils are identified as sponge-grade metazoans.

      It was peer reviewed, so I would suspect that their methods weren't trash.

  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @11:08AM (#33289724)

    The saddest part of this story? No, not the tabloid link that gets vast parts of the story wrong. No, the saddest part is, thanks to a new obsession of my kids, I can't read this story about prehistoric sea sponges without singing "Who lives in a pineapple under the sea!"

  • So we could already be up to Life 2.0 ? I thought it seemed shiny and bright but with some underlying feeling of pointlessness ! ;)
  • retarded fish frogs!
  • by Burnhard (1031106) on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @11:24AM (#33289972)

    'Since animals probably did not evolve twice, we are suddenly confronted with the question of how some relative of these reef-dwelling animals survived the Snowball Earth.'

    Forgive my trolling, but Dr. Maloof is an idiot. There are things called hydrothermal vents that certain species of sponge live around. So unless he thinks "Snowball Earth" involved the complete freezing of the oceans and, indeed, all other bodies of water, a hypothesis can easily be constructed to answer his question.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @11:43AM (#33290308)

    Sea Sponges "evolved" approx. 5000 years ago, along with the rest of the universe.

  • by aristotle-dude (626586) on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @12:13PM (#33290718)

    The scientific method requires a known control. For carbon dating, there is external evidence that you can use to judge the accuracy of it (historical records) but for other dating methods, where is the known control? Don't feed me circular logic crap about the state of gases in strata beside fossils of a "known" age because that is a feedback loop. I was not born yesterday.

    Not only have some of these gas based dating methods been thrown into question by the realization that cosmic radiation can speed up the radioactive decay of those gases but we do not have any way to verify the decay rate unaffected by cosmic radiation using the classic scientific method. There is no control old enough. We also do not know what concentration of those gases were when they were trapped in the rock let alone what they were even a couple hundred years ago.

    Even if the scale of the rate of decay was accurate, there is no way to know what the started state was when it was trapped, whether that gas was trapped long before that strata formed and whether cosmic radiation has sped up the decay since it was deposited in the strata.

    In a nutshell, you do not know for certain if a particular strata is 3000 or 90 million years old.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I was not born yesterday.

      I am a believer of Last Thursdayism you insensitive clod.

      There is nothing contradict the theory that the entire universe was created Last Thursday. With all the people with memories of events happening before Last Thursday, with memories of ancestors, the heirlooms, etc etc, every thing was created Last Thursday. With stars billions of light years away too, with light stretching all the way back to these stars from Earth, with fossils already buried in strata of rock, and with radio active elements alrea

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mangu (126918)

      we do not have any way to verify the decay rate unaffected by cosmic radiation using the classic scientific method

      Yes we do. There are nuclides with half lives of billions of years. How do we know? Get a pure sample of some isotope and measure how much of it has decayed after a known period. If after one year one billionth of the nuclei has decayed we can calculate that after a billion years 63.2% of the atoms will have decayed.

      We know which nuclides come from which ones. We have a well tested sequence that

  • It's theorized that microbes living in hidy-holes deep in the crust of this rock survive in the worst terrestrial conditions. That's the short version.
    • It would be interesting if life evolved before the moon was formed by that collision of the mars like planet and the early earth by hiding out there. It could have survived because it stayed in the nice warm chemical rich layers of the mantle.

  • As many others in this thread have noted, the summary completely misrepresents the content of the article.

    Regardless, there are many very interesting examples of parallel evolution. Startling to me was finding out that fruit bats and insectivorous bats are very much unrelated... meaning that true flight evolved at least twice in mammals. Pterosaurs and true birds, the same thing. What a wondrous universe we live in.

  • Imagine that the sponges that were here first filed for patent.

  • Mod article up.

  • it was a dupe

  • Life was already well established 635 million years ago. We have the stromatolites to prove it. The question should be, 'Did multi-cellular life arise twice?" Even if the Earth had been completely covered in ice, life would still have survived around volcanic vents in the oceans and in the deep rock.

    I saw a mini-series called Miracle Planet and it described a still forming Earth being bombarded where not only is the ocean completely vaporized [youtube.com] the Earth's crust was heated to sterilizing temperatures down t

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