Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Animals built reefs 550 million years ago, fossil study finds

Date:
June 26, 2014
Source:
University of Edinburgh
Summary:
It is a remarkable survivor of an ancient aquatic world -- now a new study sheds light on how one of Earth's oldest reefs was formed. Researchers have discovered that one of these reefs -- now located on dry land in Namibia -- was built almost 550 million years ago, by the first animals to have hard shells.

These reefs were built by Cloudina ~548 million years ago, from the Nama Group, Namibia.
Credit: Fred Bowyer

It is a remarkable survivor of an ancient aquatic world -- now a new study sheds light on how one of Earth's oldest reefs was formed.

Related Articles


Researchers have discovered that one of these reefs -- now located on dry land in Namibia -- was built almost 550 million years ago, by the first animals to have hard shells.

Scientists say it was at this point that tiny aquatic creatures developed the ability to construct hard protective coats and build reefs to shelter and protect them in an increasingly dangerous world.

They were the first animals to build structures similar to non-living reefs, which are created through the natural processes of erosion and sediment deposition.

The study reveals that the animals attached themselves to fixed surfaces -- and to each other -- by producing natural cement composed of calcium carbonate, to form rigid structures.

The creatures -- known as Cloudina -- built reefs in ancient seas that now form part of Namibia. Their fossilised remains are the oldest reefs of their type in the world.

Cloudina were tiny, filter-feeding creatures that lived on the seabed during the Ediacaran Period, which ended 541 million years ago. Fossil evidence indicates that animals had soft bodies until the emergence of Cloudina.

Findings from the study -- led by scientists at the University of Edinburgh -- support previous research which suggested that environmental pressures caused species to develop new features and behaviours in order to survive.

Researchers say animals may have developed the ability to build reefs to protect themselves against increased threats from predators. Reefs also provided access to nutrient-rich currents at a time when there was growing competition for food and living space.

Scientists say the development of hard biological structures -- through a process called biomineralisation -- sparked a dramatic increase in the biodiversity of marine ecosystems.

The study, published in the journal Science, was carried out in collaboration with University College London and the Geological Survey of Namibia. The work was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council, the University of Edinburgh and the Laidlaw Trust.

Professor Rachel Wood, Professor of Carbonate GeoScience at the University of Edinburgh, who led the study, said: "Modern reefs are major centres of biodiversity with sophisticated ecosystems. Animals like corals build reefs to defend against predators and competitors. We have found that animals were building reefs even before the evolution of complex animal life, suggesting that there must have been selective pressures in the Precambrian Period that we have yet to understand."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. A. M. Penny, R. Wood, A. Curtis, F. Bowyer, R. Tostevin, K.- H. Hoffman. Ediacaran metazoan reefs from the Nama Group, Namibia. Science, 2014; 344 (6191): 1504 DOI: 10.1126/science.1253393

Cite This Page:

University of Edinburgh. "Animals built reefs 550 million years ago, fossil study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140626141656.htm>.
University of Edinburgh. (2014, June 26). Animals built reefs 550 million years ago, fossil study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140626141656.htm
University of Edinburgh. "Animals built reefs 550 million years ago, fossil study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140626141656.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) Price check on honey? Bear cub startles Oregon drugstore shoppers. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) One man is on a mission to boost the population of wolves in China's violence-wracked far west. The animal - symbol of the Uighur minority there - is under threat with a massive human resettlement program in the region. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. Video provided by Newsy
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