In DepthPaleontology

Early animal fossils at risk

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Science  21 Apr 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6335, pp. 230-231
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6335.230

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Paleontologists have argued for years about the identity of enigmatic curling shapes and embryolike spheres, found in 600-million-year-old rocks called the Doushantuo Formation. Some say these fossils, no bigger than a grain of salt, may be the remains of the world's most ancient animals. Now, researchers fear that the rock formation may be pulverized, along with its cargo of fossils, before scientists can pin down the creatures' identity and what they may reveal about the evolution of animals. A massive phosphate mining operation in southern China could wipe out the entire site, including a wealth of as-yet-undiscovered fossils. Scientists are sounding the alarm, urging the Chinese government to step in to protect the rare fossils.

  • * Kathleen McLaughlin is a writer in Beijing.

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