Friday, February 03, 2017

Saccorhytus coronarius: a Basal Deuterostome From the Ediacaran/Cambrian Boundary

Researchers have identified traces of what they believe is the earliest known prehistoric ancestor of humans -- a microscopic, bag-like sea creature, which lived about 540 million years ago.

Named Saccorhytus, after the sack-like features created by its elliptical body and large mouth, the species is new to science and was identified from microfossils found in China. It is thought to be the most primitive example of a so-called "deuterostome" -- a broad biological category that encompasses a number of sub-groups, including the vertebrates.

If the conclusions of the study, published in the journal Nature, are correct, then Saccorhytus was the common ancestor of a huge range of species, and the earliest step yet discovered on the evolutionary path that eventually led to humans, hundreds of millions of years later.

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