Life forms ‘went large’ a billion years ago

Life was already organising itself into large communities of cells more than a billion years ago, according to evidence from China. The centimetre-scale life forms were preserved in mudstones from the Yanshan area in the country’s north and are dated to 1.56 billion years ago.

Fossils big enough to be seen by the naked eye became common between 635 and 541 million years ago. But the latest specimens are more than twice that age.

The findings by a Chinese-American team of researchers appear in the journal Nature Communications. The mysterious organisms from the Gaoyuzhuang rock formation appear to belong to the branch of life known as the eukaryotes, which today includes everything from single-celled amoebae to plants, fungi and animals.

The sea-dwelling life forms probably lived on the shelf areas of ancient oceans and bear a superficial resemblance to algae. They also appear to have used photosynthesis, the process by which plants, some bacteria and other simple organisms convert sunlight into chemical energy. Source: Life forms ‘went large’ a billion years ago

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