A Caltech Library Service

Algal origin of sponge sterane biomarkers negates the oldest evidence for animals in the rock record

Bobrovskiy, Ilya and Hope, Janet M. and Nettersheim, Benjamin J. and Volkman, John K. and Hallmann, Christian and Brocks, Jochen J. (2021) Algal origin of sponge sterane biomarkers negates the oldest evidence for animals in the rock record. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 5 (2). pp. 165-168. ISSN 2397-334X. doi:10.1038/s41559-020-01334-7.

[img] PDF (Supplementary Discussion, Tables 2–4 and references) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.

[img] PDF (Reporting Summary) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.

[img] MS Excel (Supplementary Table 1) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.

[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 1: Mass spectra of steranes produced via pyrolysis of (iso)fucosterol and saringosterol) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


The earliest fossils of animal-like organisms occur in Ediacaran rocks that are approximately 571 million years old. Yet 24-isopropylcholestanes and other C₃₀ fossil sterol molecules have been suggested to reflect an important ecological role of demosponges as the first abundant animals by the end of the Cryogenian period (>635 million years ago). Here, we demonstrate that C₃₀ 24-isopropylcholestane is not diagnostic for sponges and probably formed in Neoproterozoic sediments through the geological methylation of C₂₉ sterols of chlorophyte algae, the dominant eukaryotes at that time. These findings reconcile biomarker evidence with the geological record and revert the oldest evidence for animals back into the latest Ediacaran.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ReadCube access
Bobrovskiy, Ilya0000-0003-4751-1687
Nettersheim, Benjamin J.0000-0002-6478-0689
Volkman, John K.0000-0003-4932-0534
Hallmann, Christian0000-0003-3696-7371
Brocks, Jochen J.0000-0002-8430-8744
Additional Information:© 2020 Nature Publishing Group. Received 27 April 2020; Accepted 23 September 2020; Published 23 November 2020. The study was funded by the Australian Research Council grants DP160100607 and DP170100556 (to J.J.B.). I.B. gratefully acknowledges the Texaco Postdoctoral Fellowship. The authors are grateful to L. M. van Maldegem, P. Adam and P. Schaeffer for their helpful feedback. Data availability: All data that support the paper are presented in the main text of the manuscript and in the Supplementary Information. Author Contributions: I.B. conceived the study, performed the analyses and wrote the first draft. J.M.H. and J.K.V. helped with compound identification. I.B. and B.J.N. interpreted the data. I.B., J.M.H., B.J.N., J.K.V., C.H. and J.J.B. prepared the manuscript. The authors declare no competing interests.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Australian Research CouncilDP160100607
Australian Research CouncilDP170100556
Texaco Postdoctoral FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Evolution; Palaeoecology; Palaeontology
Issue or Number:2
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20201123-100253164
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Bobrovskiy, I., Hope, J.M., Nettersheim, B.J. et al. Algal origin of sponge sterane biomarkers negates the oldest evidence for animals in the rock record. Nat Ecol Evol 5, 165–168 (2021).
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:106779
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:23 Nov 2020 19:38
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 18:56

Repository Staff Only: item control page