Research Highlights | Published:

Palaeontology

Ancient origins of multicellular life

Nature volume 533, page 441 (26 May 2016) | Download Citation

Large, multicellular life forms may have appeared on Earth one billion years earlier than was previously thought.

Macroscopic multicellular life had been dated to around 600 million years ago, but new fossils suggest that centimetres-long multicellular organisms existed as early as 1.56 billion years ago. Maoyan Zhu at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Nanjing and his colleagues report the discovery of well-preserved fossils from northern China showing organisms up to 30 centimetres in length. The creatures' cells measure 6–18 micrometres in diameter and are closely packed. From comparisons with modern organisms, the authors suggest that the fossils were probably photosynthetic eukaryotes similar to modern algae.

The finding challenges the idea that this period of evolution was relatively uneventful, the authors say.

About this article

Publication history

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/533441b

Authors

    Comments

    By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

    Newsletter Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing