Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Who Laid The First Egg? Scientists Move A Step Closer To Linking Embryos Of Earth's First Animals To Adult Form

Date:
November 5, 2004
Source:
Virginia Tech
Summary:
In 1998, Shuhai Xiao and colleagues reported finding thousands of 600 million year old embryo microfossils in the Neoproterozoic Doushantuo Formation, a fossil site near Weng'an, South China. But what kind of adult would these ancient embryos have hatched into?

In the past several years, Xiao and his colleagues have been focusing on the Neoproterozoic Doushantuo Formation (ca. 570-600 million years old) in South China. The Doushantuo Formation contains multiple taphonomic windows. Extraordinary fossils such as these animal embryos are preserved in Doushantuo phosphorites and cherts.
Credit: Image courtesy of Virginia Tech

Blacksburg, Va. – In 1998, Shuhai Xiao and colleagues reported finding thousands of 600 million year old embryo microfossils in the Neoproterozoic Doushantuo Formation, a fossil site near Weng'an, South China, (Xiao, S., Zhang, Y., and Knoll, A.H., 1998, "Three-dimensional preservation of algae and animal embryos in a Neoproterozoic phosphorite," Nature, v. 391). Within the egg cases they examined at that time, they discovered animals in the first stages of development – from a single cell to only a few dozen cells. "The cellular preservation is amazing," says Xiao, assistant professor of geosciences at Virginia Tech.

Related Articles


But what kind of adult would these ancient embryos have hatched into?

In 2000, Xiao's team reported the discovery of a coral-like animal that might be a candidate for parenthood (Xiao, S., Yuan, X., and Knoll, A.H., 2000, "Eumetazoan fossils in terminal Proterozoic phosphorites?" Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, v. 97). "It was tubular, not spherical. But in some of the best specimens, we could see that the tube branches and has cross-walls," Xiao said. "But can it be linked to the embryos?"

Upon examination of more embryos collected from the original site, Xiao's research team has discovered some embryos that may be at the hatching stage. He will report on this latest finding at the Geological Society of America meeting in Denver Nov. 7-10.

"Looking now at these egg cases, we can see clockwise spiral grooves, as if a knife sliced the egg open," Xiao said. "The embryo was beginning to hatch. When we removed the egg case, we found that the post blastula but pre-hatching embryo at this stage is beginning to transform into a spiral animal. Each such animal had three clockwise spires. After hatching, the spiral organism began to uncoil slightly," Xiao said.

"They look as if they can unwind to a tube structure. We are looking for more evidence, but if that is true, it might link the embryo fossils to the tubular coral-like animal."

The researchers will slice open a hatched embryo specimen that appears to be unwinding to see if it has cross-walls. "That would indicate it is related to the tubes," Xiao said.

"These organisms lived 600 million years ago – before big animals. This the very first moment of animal evolution preserved in the fossil record."

The research, "Animal Embryos from the terminal Neoproterozoic Doushantuo Formation: How did they hatch?," written by Xiao of Virginia Tech's College of Science, and Chuanming Zhou and Xunlai of the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, will be presented at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10, in rooms 108/110/112 of the Colorado Convention Center .

###

Xiao's research is supported by the National Science Foundation. Images and information about the Doushantuo project are at http://www.geol.vt.edu/paleo/Xiao/#Research


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Virginia Tech. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Virginia Tech. "Who Laid The First Egg? Scientists Move A Step Closer To Linking Embryos Of Earth's First Animals To Adult Form." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 November 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/11/041104005307.htm>.
Virginia Tech. (2004, November 5). Who Laid The First Egg? Scientists Move A Step Closer To Linking Embryos Of Earth's First Animals To Adult Form. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/11/041104005307.htm
Virginia Tech. "Who Laid The First Egg? Scientists Move A Step Closer To Linking Embryos Of Earth's First Animals To Adult Form." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/11/041104005307.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins