Scientists find oldest record of animal life on Earth

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Fossils from Australia show animal life on Earth began at least 650 million years ago, 70 million years earlier than previous estimates, Princeton University scientists report.

Princeton geosciences professor Adam Maloof and graduate student Catherine Rose came upon the fossils while researching a massive ice age, known as the “snowball effect,” that left much of the planet covered in ice 635 million years ago. Scientists had thought animal life could not have survived that ice age. But as they inspected a glacial deposit in south Australia, they found the fossils of the sponge-like ocean reef animals.

The researchers call the animals sponge-like because the fossil record shows them to have a network of internal canals, likely for filtering food from seawater as sponges do. The earliest fossilized record of sponges had been 520 million years ago. The earliest fossils of hard-bodies animals date to 550 million years ago....

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