When 3 bizarre spherical fossils, dating 600 million years ago, were studied by Scientists from Chinese Academy of Sciences and Virginia Tech, they were perplexed. As per the analysis of the fossils, multicellular lifeforms were indicated.
Professor of geobiology in Virginia Tech College of Science, Shuhai Xiao says that “This opens up a new door for us to shine some light on the timing and evolutionary steps that were taken by multicellular organisms that would eventually go on to dominate the Earth in a very visible way. Fossils similar to these have been interpreted as bacteria, single-cell eukaryotes, algae, and transitional forms related to modern animals such as sponges, sea anemones, or bilaterally symmetrical animals.”
Originally, these fossils were found inside Phosporite rocks that are found inside Doushantuo Formation in Southern China. These fossils were previously studied in the year 1998 and it was thought that they are a representation of animal embryos.
In this research, the rocks are cut into thin slices and then light is used for looking inside the fossils with microscopes. With this, multiple cells, in separate clusters were revealed. The sizes and shapes of these cells were different and this suggested that the functions of different cells were different. In some, reproductive processes were involved.
Researchers believe that fossils named Megasphaera might show evolution of single celled organisms into multicellular ones. However, with specific anatomy preserved in fossils, it is suggested that they can be more of a plant-like organism, like algae.