PerspectivePaleontology

Terminal Developments in Ediacaran Embryology

Science  23 Dec 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6063, pp. 1655-1656
DOI: 10.1126/science.1216125

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Summary

Ever since Darwin there has been a disturbing void, both paleontological and psychological, at the base of the Phanerozoic eon. If his theory of gradualistic evolution be true, then surely the pre-Phanerozoic oceans must have swarmed with living animals—despite their conspicuous absence from the early fossil record. Thus, the 1998 report of fossilized animal embryos in the early Ediacaran Doushantuo Formation of South China (1) was met with almost palpable relief. It was indeed the fossil record that had let us down, not the textbooks, and certainly not the exciting new insights from molecular clocks. All was not as it seemed, however, and new data from Huldtgren et al. on page 1696 of this issue (2) look set to revoke the status of these most celebrated Ediacaran fossils.

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