Oldest organism with skeleton discovered in Australia

Mar 08, 2012
This is a reconstruction of how Coronacollina would have appeared in life. Coronacollina remained in place on the sea floor, and may have used its spicules as support struts. Coronacollina resembles the Cambrian fossil sponge, Choia. The three raised points on the rim are evident, with a central hollow and four spicules extending from the cone rim. Credit: Daniel Garson for Droser lab, UC Riverside

A team of paleontologists has discovered the oldest animal with a skeleton. Called Coronacollina acula, the organism is between 560 million and 550 million years old, which places it in the Ediacaran period, before the explosion of life and diversification of organisms took place on Earth in the Cambrian.

The finding provides insight into the – particularly, early life – on the planet, why animals go extinct, and how respond to environmental changes. The discovery also can help scientists recognize life elsewhere in the universe.

The Ediacaran Period, named after the Ediacara Hills of South Australia, ranges 630-542 million years ago. The Cambrian Period, marked by a rapid of life-forms on Earth as well as the rise of mineralized organisms, ranges 542-488 million years ago.

"Up until the Cambrian, it was understood that animals were soft bodied and had no hard parts," said Mary Droser, a professor of geology at the University of California, Riverside, whose research team made the discovery in South Australia. "But we now have an organism with individual skeletal body parts that appears before the Cambrian. It is therefore the oldest animal with hard parts, and it has a number of them - they would have been structural supports - essentially holding it up. This is a major innovation for animals."

Coronacollina acula is seen in the fossils as a depression measuring a few millimeters to 2 centimeters deep. But because rocks compact over time, the organism could have been bigger – 3 to 5 centimeters tall. Notably, it is constructed in the same way that Cambrian sponges were constructed.

"It therefore provides a link between the two time intervals," Droser said. "We're calling it the 'harbinger of Cambrian constructional morphology,' which is to say it's a precursor of organisms seen in the Cambrian. This is tremendously exciting because it is the first appearance of one of the major novelties of animal evolution."

According to Droser, the appearance of Coronacollina acula signals that the initiation of skeletons was not as sudden in the Cambrian as was thought, and that Ediacaran animals like it are part of the evolutionary lineage of animals as we know them.

This shows the best Coronacollina specimens showing the main body with articulated spicules. Specimens originate from different field localities. Arrows indicate main body of Coronacollina. White/black bars indicate 1 cm. A, C, D and E are photographs of fossil impressions in the rock. B and F are latex casts showing how the fossils would have looked in life, after compression. Credit: Droser lab, UC Riverside.

"The fate of the earliest Ediacaran animals has been a subject of debate, with many suggesting that they all went extinct just before the Cambrian," she said. "Our discovery shows that they did not."

Study results appeared online Feb. 14 in Geology.

The researchers note that Coronacollina acula lived on the seafloor. Shaped like a thimble to which at least four 20-40-centimeter-long needle-like "spicules" were attached, Coronacollina acula most likely held itself up by the spicules. The researchers believe it ingested food in the same manner a sponge does, and that it was incapable of locomotion. How it reproduced remains a mystery.

Coronacollina acula is so named because it translates as "little rimmed hill with needles" (corona – rim or crown; collis – hill; acula – needle). The name describes the fossil organism's morphology, and, specifically, its two components: the truncated cone-shaped body, which appears in the fossils as a pit, and the long brittle spicules, which appear in the fossils as thin grooves.

Ediacaran fossils often show the imprint of the whole body of the organism. With Coronacollina acula, however, skeletal parts were found to have fallen off.

"If you have soft parts holding your body together, then, as they decay, you lose your skeletal parts," Droser explained. "Which is why it's rare to find two clam shells together in fossils. We've now found whole organisms of Coronacollina acula – the thimble-shaped body in the center, with spicules coming off it like knitting needles. And we have found hundreds of them. They appear to have been a gregarious species, with a lot of them living together."

Droser explained that the spicules had to have been mineralized because the casts show they are ruler-straight. Moreover, they broke.

"We often associate skeletons with predation since skeletons greatly assist animals in their fight against predators," Droser said. "But Coronacollina acula used its only for support, there being no predators in the Ediacaran."

The research work began as a master's thesis project in Droser's lab. Erica Clites, now a physical science technician at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area for the National Park Service, chose to work on this project because it promised a good challenge with rewarding results.

"Every aspect of the organism's reconstruction had to be backed up by supporting statistics," said Clites, who graduated from UCR in 2009 and is the first author of the research paper. "Through painstaking measurements and detailed descriptions, the pits and needles contained in the rock were revealed as a sponge-like animal."

Droser and Clites were joined in the study by James G. Gehling of the South Australian Museum, Adelaide.

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Urgelt
3.9 / 5 (8) Mar 08, 2012
These are sea creatures, and while it may be that they enjoyed support from their spicules, surely they existed in a state of nearly neutral buoyancy, which rendered "support" mostly handled?

A different reasonable guess might be that the spicules anchored them against currents. Or tides, if they could have been tidal creatures.

I assume there were predators preying on these creatures. Perhaps it's just as logical to guess that the spicules, radiating out from colonies of Coronacollina, might have discouraged predation?

How did they reproduce? Asexually, perhaps. I have it stuck in my head that the Cambrian explosion of life-forms may have been triggered by the development of gender and sex, which sped up genetic diversification and adaptation. (Caveat: just because an idea sticks in my head, alas, is not proof it is true.)
Callippo
Mar 08, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
John_Randall
1 / 5 (1) Mar 08, 2012
tell me that thing doesnt look alien if that were the only life found by others at some distant past
CardacianNeverid
3.5 / 5 (8) Mar 09, 2012
I assume there were predators preying on these creatures. Perhaps it's just as logical to guess that the spicules, radiating out from colonies of Coronacollina, might have discouraged predation? -Urgelt

The article states that there were no predators at that early age (Ediacaran).
jsdarkdestruction
4.4 / 5 (9) Mar 09, 2012
Thats crap callippo.i checked that blog out. did you write that crap? it would explain why it makes absolutely no sense to anyone but you. do you have to spam articles in all the sections of the site?
TheWalrus
5 / 5 (8) Mar 09, 2012
I have it stuck in my head that the Cambrian explosion of life-forms may have been triggered by the development of gender and sex
IMO http://aetherwave...ion.html - although I cannot guarantee, someone else didn't come with it before. It just plays well with another AWT analogies, in which the genome of procaryota is behaving like graviton condensate which separates into bosons and fermions during cooling. And vice-versa: as the people are living wealthy life style, they're changing into asexual community again.


Who'd have thought a respected popular science Web site would have comments of the same quality as YouTube? With all the crackpots out there, it's amazing science ever got off the ground.
CardacianNeverid
3.9 / 5 (12) Mar 09, 2012
With all the crackpots out there, it's amazing science ever got off the ground -TheWalrusGooGooG'joob

Fortunately the crackpots of today can never get past the front door of a reputable scientific organization, which is why they infect internet sites where the intellectual price of admission is not required.
Ethelred
3.8 / 5 (10) Mar 09, 2012
Several of the crackpots on this site had or still have real jobs in science. Oliver K Manual spammed the hell out this site till the end of last year. My guess he was banned. There are at least two articles on this site covering Oliver's Iron Sun idea.

There are two or more with Smrit Sorli who cranked on other articles than those covering him. So crackpots can still get past the door. They become crackpots AFTER they get past the door.

Zephir's other sockpuppet, Rawa1, seems to have been banned. How come they only banned the one and not Callipo as well. Even the mods have to know its the same person.

He was doing so well on that post and then he couldn't help himself. He HAD to crank out crap about AWITSBS.

Ethelred
Ethelred
3.5 / 5 (8) Mar 09, 2012
I agree that sex is a likely source of the Cambrian explosion but there are several other possible causes that, at the very least, contributed.

O2 concentrations may have increased. There may have been an end to a major ice age of global proportions. Eyes and calcification started at the same time.

A big possibility that no one has ever mentioned, at least that I have seen, is the development of a circulatory system with O2 transport but even the Burgess Shale fossils aren't good enough to show that.

I think it was a confluence of things but sex sure could have been the initiating reason that the more complex organism that evolved those things were able to evolve them.

genome of procaryota is behaving like graviton condensate which separates into bosons and fermions during cooling


Word wuze of the worst sort. Nothing of that had anything to do with sex. Or bosons, fermions or the hypothetical graviton or even cooling.

Ethelred
Sinister1811
1 / 5 (5) Mar 09, 2012
That is fascinating. Especially given that fossil record for the pre-cambrian era has been largely missing/absent. It was thought to be an era in Earth's history that was relatively lifeless. I wonder if life elsewhere in the universe would resemble this creature.
bewertow
5 / 5 (3) Mar 09, 2012
I have it stuck in my head that the Cambrian explosion of life-forms may have been triggered by the development of gender and sex
IMO http://aetherwave...ion.html - although I cannot guarantee, someone else didn't come with it before. It just plays well with another AWT analogies, in which the genome of procaryota is behaving like graviton condensate which separates into bosons and fermions during cooling. And vice-versa: as the people are living wealthy life style, they're changing into asexual community again.


reported for spamming. I encourage everyone else who finds this crap annoying to do so as well.
roboferret
5 / 5 (2) Mar 09, 2012

Zephir's other sockpuppet, Rawa1, seems to have been banned. How come they only banned the one and not Callipo as well. Even the mods have to know its the same person.


there's Kinedryl too - http://www.physor...inedryl/

Same MO:
http://www.physor...son.html

It's not even good sockpuppetry. No attempt is made to make them look like different people, and he often carries on the same conversation with different accounts. Really bizarre behaviour.
Peteri
5 / 5 (4) Mar 10, 2012
IMO http://aetherwave...ion.html - although I cannot guarantee, someone else didn't come with it before. It just plays well with another AWT analogies, in which the genome of procaryota is behaving like graviton condensate which separates into bosons and fermions during cooling. And vice-versa: as the people are living wealthy life style, they're changing into asexual community again.


@Callippo
Judging from your crass and ill-informed comments on Physorg and the utter pseudo-scientific garbage you spout on your AWT web site, you were obviously one of those lazy-minded students who nodded off in your science lessons!

Go play "let's pretend to be a scientist" somewhere else and stop clogging up serious discussion threads with your nonsense.
Callippo
1 / 5 (4) Mar 11, 2012
.. I encourage everyone else who finds this crap annoying to do so as well.
It's easy to say, but why the Cambrian explosion of species cannot be connected just with evolution of sexual reproduction? And why this evolution cannot be promoted just with cooling of Earth during snow ball period? Procaryota evolve mainly with mutations and horizontal gene transfer. At the moment, when this way of adaptation and speciation is not sufficient with respect to fast changing life environment, you're forced to adopt another mechanism, based on sexual reproduction. Even many protozoa are switching asexual and sexual reproduction is such way. Sexual reproduction is too mutagenic and energetically expensive for tiny organisms with fast paced live cycle (protozoa), so they using it only in under unfavorable conditions.
Callippo
1 / 5 (7) Mar 11, 2012
I agree that sex is a likely source of the Cambrian explosion
If so, why to downvote it? The formation of sexual dimorphism during cooling of Earth is an analogy of formation of fermions and bosons from single particle of ambivalent character (graviton) during cooling of Universe. I can see nothing wrong with this analogy, which has a deeper origin in mechanism of spontaneous symmetry breaking inside of particle systems. For example, the supercritical fluid contains density fluctuations, which do serve both like energy, both like the mean of energy transfer. The cooling leads into separation of these fluctuations into two dedicated forms and formation of droplets surrounded with solitons.
Callippo
1 / 5 (9) Mar 11, 2012
and the utter pseudo-scientific garbage
I don't care, if my posts are "scientific", but if they can be disproved with matter of fact arguments or not. So far I didn't met with any counter arguments. One of opponents (Ethelred) who downvoted me here even admitted, I can be right - that's all argumentation, which I got here. If nothing else, my ideas are still way smarter, than the blind wild negativism, which you're all demonstrating here. You cannot argument logically at all, that's it. Is it everything, what did you learned at schools?
Ethelred
4.2 / 5 (10) Mar 11, 2012
So far I didn't met with any counter arguments.


Lying about it won't make reality go away.

AWITSBS is based on two stupid theories that don't fit reality and one of the laughable theories you have to changed to require 'variations in infinite density' which is self-contradictory. Plus gravitons are hypothetical low energy MASSLESS particles so they cannot decay into massive particles.

One of opponents (Ethelred) who downvoted me here even admitted, I can be right


Lie. I said ONE part was possibly right. After all, you agreed with me on the sexual issue which I have posted before. The rest was ludicrous nonsense as I pointed out already.

If nothing else, my ideas are still way smarter, than the blind wild negativism,


Another lie. YOUR blindness does not constitute our blindness. Nothing was wild except the rubbish you followed up the sexual reproduction concept with.>>
Ethelred
3.5 / 5 (8) Mar 11, 2012
You cannot argument logically at all, that's it.


That word does not mean what you think it means.

Logic does not constitute theories that are self contradictory.

Is it everything, what did you learned at schools?


No. And isn't rote learning as you usually lie about either.

And why this evolution cannot be promoted just with cooling of Earth during snow ball period?


You didn't claim that. Nor is it reasonable since the snow ball Earth period, if it really existed, lasted for a very long time. Now if you were to claim that it was the END of the snowball era then you might have a point BUT that is clearly not all that was going on.

I will go through the what seem to be the key points of what MAY have involved.

Life started, how is unknown and probably unknowable.>>
Ethelred
3.5 / 5 (8) Mar 11, 2012
In the beginning of life there was little free O2 and a lot of dissolved iron in the oceans. Life produced O2 as a byproduct of photosynthesis which how life nows gets the carbon it needs from the atmosphere or dissolved CO2 to use to build organic molecules that were no longer floating around since life had corralled it all.

The freed O2 was captured by the dissolved iron to form the insoluble iron oxides which are found in the banded iron formations. It took a LONG time for almost all the iron to be oxidised. The process of taking CO2 from the atmosphere lowered the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere thus lowering the Earth's temperature which is what would have been the cause of the snowball Earth should it be confirmed. At the end of this period there was enough free O2 to support more active lifeforms AND it may have promoted the evolution of the nucleus as zone in the cells with little free O2.>>
Ethelred
3.3 / 5 (7) Mar 11, 2012
At that point the prokaryote method of gene sharing could no longer occur since the DNA could no longer float about freely in the cells. The shortage of CO2 and the higher O2 levels would have driven an increase in predation thus increasing the selection pressure. Sexual reproduction was likely a byproduct of predation by cells with nuclei on each other just as the development of mitochondria most likely started as predation of cells with nuclei on prokaryote.

That lays the basic biochemical evolution of sexually reproducing eukaryotes to the time period of the oxygenated snowball Earth. Not to gravitons nor directly to the cold but to the free O2 which was the result of the CO2 binding that led to the snowball Earth.

The basics of the biochemistry of sexual reproduction must have taken a long time to sort out. Sexual organs and specialization into two sexes couldn't occur till there were multicelled organisms with specialized cells.>
Ethelred
3.3 / 5 (7) Mar 11, 2012
Sexual reproduction had to occur before the Explosion because there simply wouldn't have been enough variation and redundancy to support all that speciation prior to it. Thus sexual reproduction had to have been both a prerequisite for and the driver of the Cambrian Explosion. This clearly had to occur BEFORE life developed the calcified parts that fossilize far easier then soft parts. Seeing it in soft bodied animals requires unusual events so the main source of information until recently has been the one single fossil bed in the Burgess Shale.

That causes it to look like it happened all at once. That is combined with an apparent tendency for paleontologists to forget just how long twenty million years really is when life is CREATING new niches for the new life forms to adapt too.

So quit lying that I am going on rote memorization. That is mostly my own thinking and it all fits the known evidence without any silly claims dependent on variations in infinite density.

Ethelred
Peteri
5 / 5 (5) Mar 11, 2012
@Callippo:
I don't care, if my posts are "scientific", but if they can be disproved with matter of fact arguments or not.


One of the problems is that your grammar is so bad it's sometimes hard to understand exactly what you are trying to say! Of course, if English is not your first language, you have a reasonable excuse.

Your argument(s) that everyone should disprove your hogwash is nicely countered by the philosopher Bertrand Russell - basically the burden of proof lies upon the person (i.e. you) making scientifically unfalsifiable claims rather than shifting the burden of proof to others. Russell summed it up quite nicely in his celestial teapot analogy - basically, if he claimed that a teapot was orbiting the Sun between Earth and Mars, it would be nonsensical for him to expect others not to doubt him on the grounds that they could not prove him wrong.

So, sorry, it is YOU who have to to provide the burden of proof in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary!
Ethelred
3 / 5 (6) Mar 12, 2012
Kassinees

Since you have nothing to say to support those ones you gave me I am going to return the favor.

Ethelred
Ethelred
3.4 / 5 (5) Mar 13, 2012
Well since kaasinees the Bigot didn't learn he will get a lot of ones.

Yes he is a racist and a complete nutcase. Here is a link:

http://www.physor...vey.html

That is not the only discussion where he gave away his irrational thinking.

Ethelred

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