Tiny sponge fossil upsets evolutionary model

Tiny sponge fossil upsets evolutionary model
The tiny fossil sponge was just 1.2 millimeters in width, seen here in a high-resolution scanning electron microscope image. Credit: Zongjun Yin/Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology

Researchers have unearthed a fossil of a sponge, no bigger than a grain of sand, that existed 60 million years earlier than many expected.

This is the first time paleontologists have found a convincing fossil sponge specimen that predates the Cambrian explosion—a 20-million-year phenomenon, beginning about 542 million years ago, when most major types of animal life appear.

New tools could allow scientists to discover other fossils that significantly predate the start of the Cambrian explosion, according to David Bottjer, professor of earth sciences, biological sciences and environmental studies and co-author of a study announcing the finding of the sponge in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"It's easier to look at large fossils that don't require high-tech instruments," Bottjer said. "We're analyzing very tiny things that require sophisticated microscopy, and we're really just starting to look at this kind of evidence."

Preserved fossils

Though some evidence, including molecular clocks, has already pointed to sponges evolving earlier, this fossil shows that the Cambrian explosion might not be a period when a large number of new traits emerged, but a period when a large number of fossils could be preserved, as animals during the Cambrian grew larger and gained skeletons.

"This specimen is of an animal that had already evolved a number of fundamental sponge traits," Bottjer said. "It implies that by the time this animal was living, most of the developmental genes for sponges had evolved."

This raises the possibility that some aspects of early animals' evolution, a good deal of which happened during the Cambrian explosion, happened even more gradually.

With an international team of colleagues, Bottjer discovered that the millimeter-wide, 600-million-year-old fossil has characteristics that many thought emerged in sponges only 540 million years ago.

"Fundamental traits in sponges were not suddenly appearing in the Cambrian Period, which is when many think these traits were evolving, but many million years earlier," Bottjer said. "To reveal these types of findings, you have to use pretty high-tech approaches and work with the best people around the world."

Very old rocks

Since 1999, Bottjer has worked with a team of researchers from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology (Chinese Academy of Sciences) and the California Institute of Technology, as well as the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France.

Team members in China dissolved several 600 million-year-old rocks, which are regularly mined for Chinese agricultural fertilizer from the Doushantuo rock formation in southwestern China's Guizhou Province. They then used a gentle acid bath to reveal tiny fossils made of calcium phosphate and a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) to determine which of those fossils were preserved well enough to merit analysis with the synchrotron.

"The preservation in these Doushantuo rocks is extremely fine—and you can even see individual cells with the SEM," Bottjer said. "Once a specimen worthy of further study is found, synchrotron microscopy is used to create very, very detailed images of the fossil in two and three dimensions. From these images we are then able to see what types of animals these fossils represent."

Future study lies in the relatively new field of paleogenomics, which analyzes the evolutionary history of genes to determine when individual genes first appeared. Bottjer said many of the genes operating in sponges 600 million years ago are the same genes that other animals have, including humans.

"These organisms don't have all the bells and whistles that modern creatures do," Bottjer said. "But this particular has enough complexity that we can say we hadn't been dating the early evolution of animal traits properly."


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Jul 08, 2015
It reminds me of the 760 Myrs South Africa sponge claim. Also "about the size of a grain of sand". [ http://news.natio...olution/ ]

Jul 08, 2015
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Jul 09, 2015
@docile: Where is the "violation"? The existence of such early sponges were expected, to find fossils were not (it is hard to do, see the article). "... some evidence, including molecular clocks, has already pointed to sponges evolving earlier ...". IIRC the clock evidence is that sponges branched off 800 - 600 Myrs ago, which puts no tension between the different data sets.

Panspermia is not the transpermia you describe, the former is universal spread from a few emergence points. But this data has nothing to do with emergce of life, which happened 4 billion years earlier (4.4 to 3.8 billion years ago).

Jul 09, 2015
The problem they refer to is, I think, that sponges and the even earlier split off ctenophores had evolved Hox genes. But some of the early precambrian fossil assemblages looks like they were without the global symmetries that Hox confers (head- tail, front-back, et cetera) but developed fractal-like (local symmetries).

The resolution could be that the Hox metazoa were still small - like this sponge. That is what astrobiologists have posed as a possibility earlier anyway.

JVK
Jul 09, 2015
Two options remain:

1) Pseudoscientists can keep pushing back the millions of years nonsense until they reach the ~2 billion year mark at which bacteria in the ocean sediments receive virtually no light and don't evolve, or
2) Pseudoscientists can continue to ignore the report that the bacterial flagellum "re-evolved" over the weekend.

Choosing to believe either story, however, allows serious scientists to appropriately label pseudoscientists, who think that all experimental evidence from physics, chemistry, and conserved molecular mechanisms of RNA-mediated cell type differentiation fits their ridiculous theories -- when obviously, none of the experimental evidence of biologically-based cause and effect has ever fit the bastardization of of Darwin's theories by the neo-Darwinists.

The resolution could be that the Hox metazoa were still small - like this sponge.


MicroRNAs are smaller, and they are the determinants of gene expression.

Jul 09, 2015
I cringed when I saw the headline "Tiny sponge fossil upsets evolutionary model"
It will be only days before creationists claim it means "Sponge fossil totally debunks evolution. Darwin completely wrong"

JVK
Jul 10, 2015
Widespread rescue of Y-linked genes by gene movement to autosomes
http://genomebiol...16/1/121

Excerpt: "...an alternative way to compensate for gene loss is to move genes from the degraded Y chromosome to other, non-sex chromosome locations..."

The inventors of neo-Darwinism are wrong. There are no "lower races" and sex differences in cell types didn't evolve.

Cell type differentiation is nutrient-dependent and controlled by the physiology of reproduction in all living genera. Experimental evidence links chromosomal rearrangements to biodiversity instead of mutations. Biologically uninformed science idiots like PZ Myers don't like that fact.

See: One crank dies, another rises to take his place
http://freethough...fSS0jRxE

"The primary demonstrable differences that distinguish us from our closest primate relatives are revealed in the structure of our chromosomes."

Jul 10, 2015
I cringed when I saw the headline "Tiny sponge fossil upsets evolutionary model"
It will be only days before creationists claim it means "Sponge fossil totally debunks evolution. Darwin completely wrong"

As did I. Thinking it over for a bit though i realized that while that is the case in truth they are just being given a chance to showcase how little they really know and their closed mindset and refusal to even consider any evidence that challenges said closed mindset.

In fact, jvk here has already done a good job of getting the ball rolling for himself and the others.


JVK
Jul 10, 2015
"...they are just being given a chance to showcase how little they really know and their closed mindset and refusal to even consider any evidence that challenges said closed mindset."

If anyone believes that evolutionary theorists have ever been open-minded, they probably don't realize that neo-Darwinism was invented by population geneticists (i.e., biologically uninformed science idiots).

"[W]hat Haldane, Fisher, Sewell Wright, Hardy, Weinberg et al. did was invent.... Evolution was defined as "changes in gene frequencies in natural populations." The accumulation of genetic mutations was touted to be enough to change one species to another.... Assumptions, made but not verified, were taught as fact."
http://www.huffin...211.html

Until the facts about protein folding are taught in the context of how ecological variation leads to ecological adaptations, theorists will continue to tout unsupported nonsense.

JVK
Jul 10, 2015
Excerpt: "Future study lies in the relatively new field of paleogenomics, which analyzes the evolutionary history of genes to determine when individual genes first appeared."

Genes do not have an evolutionary history. Protein folding starts with of amino acids. See the report that put the "re-evolution" of genes into the context of what happened over-the-weekend in the lab. You can get to the changes via nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled ecological adaptations, but not by the re-evolution of such a complex structure.

Evolutionary Rewiring http://www.the-sc...ewiring/

Jul 11, 2015
JVK

Comment posted by a person you have ignored ...

Jul 11, 2015
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Jul 11, 2015
It is not religion, it is science. Do you have actual proof of the existence of Jesus? Any contemporary accounts? Records of such an important event? Nothing for over 100 years after his alleged death? Then, his story suddenly appears?

Tell us about the parts of the Bible they took out. What made those folk realize they were not Absolute Truth, like the other parts? Did god tell them to do it? In what voice?

Jul 11, 2015
"their religion is just evolution."
------------------------------

Interesting attack. But religion relies on faith, that is, belief where there is no proof. Science finds proof and looks for the mechanisms for understanding.

Religion comes from stories from the Age of Ignorance. Science demands proof, not superstition and emotion.

Jul 11, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

JVK
Jul 11, 2015
Instead of creation, their religion is just evolution.


You fail to understand the fact that ecological variation must be linked to ecological adaptation via RNA-mediated gene duplication and nutrient-dependent RNA-mediated events that link the physiology of reproduction to cell type differentiation in all cells of all individuals of all genera.

Alternatively, that may be what you are calling "evolution" -- if you are a biologically uninformed science idiot.

Jul 11, 2015
"their religion is just evolution."
------------------------------

Interesting attack. But religion relies on faith, that is, belief where there is no proof. Science finds proof and looks for the mechanisms for understanding.

Religion comes from stories from the Age of Ignorance. Science demands proof, not superstition and emotion.


Metaphysical naturalism, which is based on the notion that the laws of physics are the same for all space and time, is a religion.

This notion is an Axiom and cannot be proven. It must be accepted upon faith and faith only.

Your re-definition of the word "Faith" as "Blind acceptance" is blatantly dishonest.

"Faith" is based on intellectual realization that the universe had to have been created.

The laws of physics as we know them show that the universe is past finite, and the laws of logic show that "something" must be infinite and uncaused, and must have created the universe, since the universe is not infinite.

Jul 11, 2015
"You fail to understand the fact that ecological variation must be linked to ecological adaptation via RNA-mediated gene duplication and nutrient-dependent RNA-mediated events that link the physiology of reproduction to cell type differentiation in all cells of all individuals of all genera."
-------------------------------------

Really?

Why would that need a creator?

Jul 11, 2015
""Faith" is based on intellectual realization that the universe had to have been created."
-------------------------------------

Intellectual or emotional?

Why would you depend on stories and superstitions from the Age of Ignorance, which are easily disproven by science? Miracles? Really?

You "believe" such stuff because of some kind of insecurity, a psychological need.

How about depending on stuff you can prove, instead?

Jul 11, 2015
It doesn't matter how many fossils you dig up, nor how old they are, nor how old the universe is. The fact will remain that something must be infinite and creative, and we know the universe itself is not infinite, therefore God exists, as defined as the Infinite, Omnipotent Creator.

It doesn't matter if you dig up a fossil 13 billion years old; it will not change the cosmological argument. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there is a 13 billion years old fossil of a life form somewhere on some planet.

Jul 11, 2015
How about depending on stuff you can prove, instead?


I can prove, and have proven that God exists. Moreover, it is not possible for this universe to exist without the prior existence of an omnipotent being. This can be proven.

I have totally refuted Hawking and other cosmologists claims of everything coming from nothing, because it can be shown that their argument is logically incongruent.

The math statement "1-1 = 0" does not prove everything came from nothing, because the statement is an equality based in a sub-set of logic. The values in the statement are a sub-set of logic. Thus in order for everything to come from "nothing" you would need the logic to pre-exist everything, and guess what? The Bible says that the Logos, which is God, in fact created everything. There is no such thing as true "nothingness".

Thus it is absolute nonsense for anyone to claim that God doesn't exist, or to claim that everything came from nothing.

The claim is a logical incongruence.

Jul 11, 2015
You FOOLS haven't figured that out yet.

Hawking's attempt to disprove the existence of God actually highlights the very reason there MUST be an omnipotent God.

Jul 11, 2015
Wow, somebody has a REAL need to "believe"!

I will take the proof of science over the demands of emotion, thanks.

JVK
Jul 11, 2015
I will take the proof of science over the demands of emotion, thanks.


Take this, instead.

https://www.faceb...t_reply#

Or, take this: Biotin starvation causes mitochondrial protein hyperacetylation and partial rescue by the SIRT3-like deacetylase Hst4p http://www.nature...726.html

Jul 11, 2015
None of those prove anything. Show me your god.

Why does he hide? Of what is he scared?

JVK
Jul 11, 2015
Hawking's attempt to disprove the existence of God...


George FR Ellis, who co-authored with Hawking in the 60's won the 2004 Templeton prize and co-authored: Scientific method: Defend the integrity of physics
http://www.nature...-1.16535

Excerpt: In our view, the issue boils down to clarifying one question: what potential observational or experimental evidence is there that would persuade you that the theory is wrong and lead you to abandoning it? If there is none, it is not a scientific theory.

If the re-evolved flagellum of bacteria, which occurred over the weekend, supports the claims of evolutionary theorists, it also appears to link them to the claims of young earth creationists.
http://www.the-sc...ewiring/

Jul 11, 2015
Stop dancing around it, and show us your god. We are in a science site, and we need proof, not words.

Jul 11, 2015
If the re-evolved flagellum of bacteria, which occurred over the weekend, supports the claims of evolutionary theorists, it also appears to link them to the claims of young earth creationists.


Just because one instance of evolution can repeatedly occur in a small timeframe doesn't mean all of it did. You can't necessarily extrapolate like that, especially when we can and have tracked timeframes of slower adaptations and instances of evolutionary stasis in the case of the sub-ocean bacteria that are morphologically identical to the 2 billion year old fossils.

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