Researchers reported they had found fossils of multi-cellular organisms that had been dated being as old as 1.5 billion years. These may be the earliest forms of life found on Earth so far. The news has been received with certain distrust in the scientific community.
It is thought that life had remained unicellular and primitive for billions of years. This period is called “the boring million” because of the lack of any events known to have happened at that moment.
The transition to the multi-cellular organism is one of the most important steps in the history of life. Cellular multiplication set out the path to more complex forms of existence.
These multi-cellular forms of life have been called eukaryotes, and their discovery had inflamed the scientific community for decades. Every researcher hopes to find a material proof from the moment where complex life appeared on Earth.
And now, Maoyan Zhu and his team from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology had dug up 167 fossils, of which a third were in regular shape, all bearing signs of multi-cellular organisms. The fossils had been dated 1.5 billion years old.
“Our discovery pushes back nearly one billion years the appearance of macroscopic, multi-cellular eukaryotes compared to previous research,” said Maoyan Zhu, a professor at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology
However, other scientists are still in doubt of the value of this discovery. One of the arguments is the fact that Maoayan Zhu might have found just a colony of unicellular organisms. A multi-cellular organism can perform transport functions and signal function at a much complex level than a colony.
Another convincing argument is the fact that the study published by the Chinese team of researchers does not contain enough information related to the discovery. Morphological measures on their own seem not to provide a clear proof of complex life forms.
This kind of debate is not unique in the scientific world. Another study published in 2010 and claiming to have found the first forms of life in Gabon, Africa, had been received with similar distrust and eventually the paper was completely discredited and voided of any scientific merit.
Maybe scientists don’t have yet the necessary tools or the appropriate theories to approach this quest. Until they do, what happened 1.5 billion years ago will remain a mystery.
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