News of the WeekPaleontology

Fossils Challenge Age of Billion-Year-Old Animals

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Science  23 Oct 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5389, pp. 601-602
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5389.601a

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Three weeks ago in the pages of Science, paleontologists pushed back the origins of multicellular life by 400 million years to a startling 1.1 billion years ago, based on ancient fossilized tracks found in central India. But a paper published about the same time in the Journal of the Geological Society of India may now yank those dates forward again to a more mundane figure of perhaps 600 million years old. The Indian paper presents tiny shelled fossils--unarguably about 540 million years old--from rocks that the author says were laid down shortly after those holding the animal tracks. If so, the spectacularly old tracks would be transformed into simply another example of early animals.