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Press Release 08-059

And the First Animal on Earth Was a ...

Evolutionary history of the comb jelly reveals surprising clues about Earth’s first animal

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Photo of a comb jelly

A comb jelly. The evolutionary history of the comb jelly has revealed surprising clues about Earth's first animal.

Credit: Casey Dunn


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Illustration showing two possible scenarios how complex comb jellies evolved before simpler sponges.

The comb jelly could only have achieved its apparent seniority over the simpler sponge via one of two new evolutionary scenarios: 1) the comb jelly evolved its complexity independently of other animals, after it branched off onto its own evolutionary path; or 2) the sponge evolved its simple form from more complex creatures--a possibility that underscores the fact that evolution is not necessarily just a march towards increased complexity, says Dunn. This scenario would provide a particularly dramatic example of that principle.

Credit: Zina Deretsky, NSF


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Photo of a comb jelly

A comb jelly

Credit: Casey Dunn


Download the high-resolution JPG version of the image. (948 KB)

Use your mouse to right-click (Mac users may need to Ctrl-click) the link above and choose the option that will save the file or target to your computer.

Photo of a comb jelly.

A comb jelly

Credit: Casey Dunn


Download the high-resolution JPG version of the image. (351 KB)

Use your mouse to right-click (Mac users may need to Ctrl-click) the link above and choose the option that will save the file or target to your computer.