Research NewsPaleontology

Pushing Back the Origins of Animals

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Science  06 Feb 1998:
Vol. 279, Issue 5352, pp. 803-804
DOI: 10.1126/science.279.5352.803

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In this issue of Science (p. 879) and in this week's Nature, two groups report finding microscopic fossils of animals and embryos exquisitely preserved in 570-million-year-old phosphorite rocks in south-central China. These new fossils offer a first glimpse of familiar-looking animals before the Cambrian explosion 540 million years ago, and show how a full record of the dawn of animals might be assembled. By showing that phosphate can fossilize tiny, fragile organisms from such ancient times, the finds have opened up a new way of looking for an older record of animals, say paleontologists.