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Qingshania magnifica

16 February 2024
Biology, Geology, Palaeontology

At https://bigthink.com/life/fossil.eukaryote-multicellular-life/ … Chinese scientists Maoyan Zhu, has reported the discovery of a 1.63 billion years old fossil that will re-write the evolutionary history of the eukarya. This includes all animals, plants and fungi within it. In this case the fossil is a plant. However, its age is leading to serous rethinking of the pace at which multicellular life evolved. The discovery also contributes to a growing body of work that is challenging other fundamental assumptions about early life on earth. Dr Maoyan Zhu was visiting his friend and fellow scientist, Shivin Zhu, in northern China. Next to Shivin’s sofa were some fossils – and one of them was very large. It reminded him of modern seaweed fossils. The pair went on to analyse the fossil and publish their findings, back in 2016. In January of 2024 they published further research on ancient multicellular eukaryotes in Science Advances.

Biologists group life into two major categories -eukaryotes and prokaryotes. The former has cells with DNA enlosed in a nucleus. The latter has free floating DNA. Prokaryotes evolved approximately 4 billion years ago while eukaryotes turned up around 2 billion years ago. It seems that Dr Zhu and his friend were looking around for a name for their fossil seaweed, assuming they were the first to formally discover the species. Then they stumbled on  a 1989 paper in an obscure Chinese journal where they saw an illustrated section and description that matched their specimen. The authors of the early paper had named it Qingshania magnifica – which the study used for their fossil. They comment there must be a lot of lost information on fossils in obscure journals, in various regions of the world, where the significance of the find was not appreciated at the time, by either the finder or their peers.

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