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Press Release 10-143
Discovery of Possible Earliest Animal Life Pushes Back Fossil Record

Primitive sponge-like creatures lived in ocean reefs 650 million years ago

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Photo of stromatolite column of bacterial mats with sponge fossils between stromatolites.

Stromatolite column of bacterial mats in Australia; sponge fossils are between stromatolites.

Credit: Adam Maloof


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Photo looking east from a low-flying plane over the Little Bunkers Ranges in South Australia.

Looking east from a low-flying plane over the Little Bunkers Ranges in South Australia.

Credit: Catherine Rose


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Photo showing a reddish bed of stromatolite bioherms with fossil sponges.

Below a cliff, a reddish bed is one of many stromatolite bioherms containing fossil sponges.

Credit: Adam Maloof


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Photo showing Laura Poppick and Blake Dyer hiking down a stromatolite reef in South Australia.

Researchers Laura Poppick and Blake Dyer hike down a stromatolite reef in South Australia.

Credit: Adam Maloof


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Image of a polished limestone rock highlighted in blue using automated image tracing software.

Image of limestone rock containing fossils; fossil of interest is highlighted in blue using automated image tracing software. The serial grinding process created nearly 500 such images that the scientists stacked and autotraced to create a 3-D model.

Credit: Maloof Lab/Situ Studio


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Image showing red autotraced forms from 15 slices through rock.

Red autotraced forms from 15 slices through rock; the shape of a single fossil changes.

Credit: Situ Studio


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Image composed of stacked autotraced rock sections showing the ellipical fossil.

Stacking autotraced rock sections results in this image; the elliptical fossil is clearly visible.

Credit: Situ Studio


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Photo showing the stratigraphic section where the fossil sponges were discovered.

The stratigraphic section where the fossil sponges were discovered may be seen in this image.

Credit: Adam Maloof


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Photo of the Trezona Formation in the West Central Flinders Ranges, South Australia.

View of the Trezona Formation in the West Central Flinders Ranges, South Australia.

Credit: Adam Maloof


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