Fossils purported to be world’s earliest animals revealed as algae

Nov. 23 (UPI) — Fossils previously heralded as the earliest evidence of animal life have been revealed to be algae. The reinterpretation, announced Monday in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, will force scientists to reconsider early animal evolution.

“It brings the oldest evidence for animals nearly 100 million years closer to the present day,” study co-author Lennart van Maldegem said in a news release.

“We were able to demonstrate that certain molecules from common algae can be altered by geological processes — leading to molecules which are indistinguishable from those produced by sponge-like animals,” said van Maldegem, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Australian National University.

The new research reverses the trend of fresh discoveries pushing the emergence of animal life further and further back on the evolutionary timeline.

For decades, scientists have struggled to pinpoint the origins of animal life, but recently, a series of discoveries suggested sponge-like

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How giant viruses fuel the evolution of algae — ScienceDaily

Viruses are tiny invaders that cause a wide range of diseases, from rabies to tomato spotted wilt virus and, most recently, COVID-19 in humans. But viruses can do more than elicit sickness — and not all viruses are tiny.

Large viruses, especially those in the nucleo-cytoplasmic large DNA virus family, can integrate their genome into that of their host — dramatically changing the genetic makeup of that organism. This family of DNA viruses, otherwise known as “giant” viruses, has been known within scientific circles for quite some time, but the extent to which they affect eukaryotic organisms has been shrouded in mystery — until now.

“Viruses play a central role in the evolution of life on Earth. One way that they shape the evolution of cellular life is through a process called endogenization, where they introduce new genomic material into their hosts. When a giant virus endogenizes into the genome

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Vital role of coralline red algae for coral reefs — ScienceDaily

Coral reefs are hotspots of biodiversity. As they can withstand heavy storms, they offer many species a safe home, and at the same time, they protect densely populated coastal regions as they level out storm-driven waves. However, how can these reefs that are made up of often very fragile coral be so stable? A team of researchers from Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) and the University of Bayreuth have now discovered that a very specific type of ‘cement’ is responsible for this — by forming a hard calcareous skeleton, coralline red algae stabilise the reefs, and have been doing so for at least 150 million years.

The wide variety of life they support is immediately apparent on images of tropical coral reefs. Their three-dimensional scaffolding provides a habitat for a large number of species. However, the skeletons of the coral are often so fragile that they would not be able to

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To survive asteroid impact, algae learned to hunt — ScienceDaily

Tiny, seemingly harmless ocean plants survived the darkness of the asteroid strike that killed the dinosaurs by learning a ghoulish behavior — eating other living creatures.

Vast amounts of debris, soot, and aerosols shot into the atmosphere when an asteroid slammed into Earth 66 million years ago, plunging the planet into darkness, cooling the climate, and acidifying the oceans. Along with the dinosaurs on the land and giant reptiles in the ocean, the dominant species of marine algae were instantly wiped out — except for one rare type.

A team of scientists, including researchers at UC Riverside, wanted to understand how these algae managed to thrive while the mass extinction rippled throughout the rest of the global food chain.

“This event came closest to wiping out all multicellular life on this planet, at least in the ocean,” said UCR geologist and study co-author Andrew Ridgwell. “If you remove algae, which

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