Billion-year-old fossil found in Highlands could reveal new link in animal evolution

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“We found a primitive spherical organism made up of an arrangement of two distinct cell types, the first step towards a complex multicellular structure, something never before described in the fossil record.

“The discovery of this new fossil suggests to us that the evolution of multicellular animals occurred at least a billion years ago and that the first events before animal evolution may have taken place in fresh water. like lakes rather than the ocean. “

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The fossil reveals new insights into the transition from single-celled organisms to complex multicellular animals.

Its “exceptional preservation” has enabled scientists to analyze it at the cellular and subcellular level.

The team now hopes to examine the Torridonian deposits for more interesting fossils that could provide additional insight into the evolution of multicellular organisms.

Professor Paul Strother, Principal Research Fellow at Boston College, said: “Biologists hypothesized that the origin of animals included the incorporation and reuse of earlier genes that had evolved earlier in single-celled organisms. .

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“What we see in Bicellum is an example of such a genetic system, involving cell-cell adhesion and cell differentiation which may have been incorporated into the animal genome half a billion years later.”

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