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Sponge grade body fossil with cellular resolution dating 60 Myr before the Cambrian

Yin, Zongjun and Zhu, Maoyan and Davidson, Eric H. and Bottjer, David J. and Zhao, Fangchen and Tafforeau, Paul (2015) Sponge grade body fossil with cellular resolution dating 60 Myr before the Cambrian. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112 (12). E1453-E1460. ISSN 0027-8424. PMCID PMC4378401.

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An extraordinarily well preserved, 600-million-year (Myr)-old, three-dimensionally phosphatized fossil displaying multiple independent characters of modern adult sponges has been analyzed by SEM and synchrotron X-ray tomography. The fossilized animal (Eocyathispongia qiania gen. et sp. nov.) is slightly more than 1.2 mm wide and 1.1 mm tall, is composed of hundreds of thousands of cells, and has a gross structure consisting of three adjacent hollow tubes sharing a common base. The main tube is crowned with a large open funnel, and the others end in osculum-like openings to the exterior. The external surface is densely covered with flat tile-like cells closely resembling sponge pinacocytes, and this layer is punctuated with smaller pores. A dense patch of external structures that display the form of a lawn of sponge papillae has also survived. Within the main funnel, an area where features of the inner surface are preserved displays a regular pattern of uniform pits. Many of them are surrounded individually by distinct collars, mounted in a supporting reticulum. The possibility cannot be excluded that these pits are the remains of a field of choanocytes. The character set evinced by this specimen, ranging from general anatomy to cell type, uniquely indicates that this specimen is a fossil of probable poriferan affinity. So far, we have only this single specimen, and although its organized and complex cellular structure precludes any reasonable interpretation that its origin is abiogenic, confirmation that it is indeed a fossilized sponge will clearly require discovery of additional specimens.

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Additional Information:© 2015 National Academy of Sciences. Freely available online through the PNAS open access option. Edited by Donald E. Canfield, Institute of Biology and Nordic Center for Earth Evolution, University of Southern Denmark, Odense M., Denmark, and approved February 6, 2015 (received for review July 30, 2014). Published online before print March 9, 2015. We thank beamlines ID19, BM5, and ID22 of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility for providing beam time. We thank Gang Li from the Institute of High Energy Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, for help in the synchrotron scanning experiments. This work was supported by funding from the Ministry of Science and Technology of China (Grant 2013CB835000), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant 41302003), and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant KZZD-EW-02-2). E.H.D. and D.J.B. were supported by US National Science Foundation Grant IOS1240626. Author contributions: M.Z. and E.H.D. designed research; Z.Y., M.Z., E.H.D., D.J.B., and F.Z. performed research; Z.Y. and P.T. conducted the synchrotron X-ray microtomographic experiments and analyzed volume data; and Z.Y., M.Z., E.H.D., and D.J.B. wrote the paper. The authors declare no conflict of interest. This article is a PNAS Direct Submission. This article contains supporting information online at
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Ministry of Science and Technology (China)2013CB835000
National Natural Science Foundation of China41302003
Chinese Academy of SciencesKZZD-EW-02-2
Subject Keywords:Precambrian; sponge fossil; metazoan phylogeny; Doushantuo Formation; synchrotron X-ray tomography
Issue or Number:12
PubMed Central ID:PMC4378401
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20150310-124759196
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Official Citation:Zongjun Yin, Maoyan Zhu, Eric H. Davidson, David J. Bottjer, Fangchen Zhao, and Paul Tafforeau Sponge grade body fossil with cellular resolution dating 60 Myr before the Cambrian PNAS 2015 112 (12) E1453-E1460; published ahead of print March 9, 2015, doi:10.1073/pnas.1414577112
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:55674
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:10 Mar 2015 20:00
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 08:07

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