Now scientists have reviewed all the evidence pointing towards an animal identity of the Weng’an fossils.
Their findings have revealed that none of the characteristics previously used to define the fossils as animals are actually unique to animals alone, opening up the possibility for alternative identifications.
Professor Philip Donoghue, another Bristol co-author, added: “Many proponents of animal affinity have argued that the Y-shaped junctions between the cells in the fossils are an important animal character, but this a feature common to many multicellular groups, including algae, that are very distant relatives of animals.”
Dr Cunningham added: “It could be that the fossils belong to other groups, such as algae, and these possibilities need to be investigated carefully.”
Despite these results, paleontologists are continuing to make new discoveries from the Weng’an Biota, and these are helping to refine our knowledge of evolution during the Ediacaran. Paper. (paywall) Paper. (paywall) – John A. Cunningham, Kelly Vargas, Zongjun Yin, Stefan Bengtson, Philip C. J. Donoghue. The Weng’an Biota (Doushantuo Formation): an Ediacaran window on soft-bodied and multicellular microorganisms. Journal of the Geological Society, 2017; jgs2016-142 DOI: 10.1144/jgs2016-142 More.
See also: Oldest known multicellulars are Ediacaran seaweed 555 mya
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