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Fields & Applications Spectroscopy

Animal Origins

Walk into any natural history museum and you’ll see fossils that span the last 550 million years. But what about the first four billion years of Earth’s history? Thanks to microfossils, we now know that single-cellular organisms emerged around 3.5 billion years ago. But fossils of this kind are rare – so Ross Anderson and his team from Oxford University set out to uncover the exceptional fossilization conditions that preserve them.
 

Currently, it is unclear whether microfossil occurrence patterns reflect evolution or simply mirror the distribution of favorable fossilization conditions – information vital to determining when animal life emerged on Earth. “We need to understand how these microfossils are formed so we can narrow our search for ancient life to appropriate rocks and counter the bias in our record of early evolution,” says Anderson.
 

Ostiana from the Wynniatt Formation, Canada. Either a colony of a cyanobacterium or another green alga (an individual cell is ~12 µm). Credit: University of Oxford/Royal Society.

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About the Author

Lauren Robertson

By the time I finished my degree in Microbiology I had come to one conclusion – I did not want to work in a lab. Instead, I decided to move to the south of Spain to teach English. After two brilliant years, I realized that I missed science, and what I really enjoyed was communicating scientific ideas – whether that be to four-year-olds or mature professionals. On returning to England I landed a role in science writing and found it combined my passions perfectly. Now at Texere, I get to hone these skills every day by writing about the latest research in an exciting, creative way.

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