Ancient fossils, which scientists have considered ancestors of early marine life, are instead remnants of land-dwelling lichen or other microbial colonies, a geologist proposes.
Ediacaran fossils date to 542-635 million years ago and have been considered fossil jellyfish, worms, and sea pens. However, they are preserved in ways distinct from marine invertebrate fossils, says Gregory Retallack, a geology professor at the University of Oregon.
“This discovery has implications for the tree of life, because it removes Ediacaran fossils from the ancestry of animals,” says Retallack. “These fossils have been a first-class scientific mystery.”
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Photo credit: Greg Retallack/University of Oregon