Fossils of 2 billion year old planktonic organisms

The discovery of living fossils floating in seawater 2.1 billion years ago at the Gabon geological site, which they have been investigating for fifteen years, constitutes a major new advance in the knowledge of the origin of multicellular life on Earth.

Abterrazak El Albany has been exploring the rocks of the Gabonese site in the Franceville area for 15 years, and his discoveries continue to disrupt scientific knowledge about the origins of life on Earth. “In 2008, we realized that there are lives that shouldn’t exist.“, he recalled.

Recent research by an international team of twelve researchers led by him highlights “Primitive fossils of eukaryotic protists (the first complex cells to form organisms) that lived in seawater 2.1 billion years ago.“. The first traces of plankton have not yet been observed.

A new finding published Tuesday, May 2 in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

Until now, the oldest recognized planktonic eukaryotic protists are 570 million years old. The new discovery highlights a biological discovery that raises new questions about the history of evolution. Refers to the CNRS press release announcing the publication.

These are Soft creatures similar to sea flying saucers, which can reach 4.5 centimeters in size, are therefore the first macroscopic plankton to appear on Earth. A complex and sophisticated association of specialized cells that includes zinc enrichment. A very sharp chemical analysis of the fossils revealed what was inside the fossil.Two and a half times more zinc than in the surrounding rock“, says Abderrazak El Albani. “TheZinc is a nutrient that enters into the composition of proteins and DNA, which is essential for biological metabolism“he notes. The presence of zinc definitively distinguishes these organisms from bacteria.

These fossils were found in the famous Gabonis deposit of Maulende, which already yielded the primitive multicellular organisms “Capionta”. The date of the appearance of biodiversity on Earth has been pushed back by about 1.5 billion years – from 600 million – to 2.1 billion years. A sophisticated, complex life, -2.1 billion years, was unimaginable until then. These discoveries have literally changed our knowledge of the origin of multicellular life on Earth. And it is not easy for the scientific community to accept it, it can be stubborn. Our results were initially refuted“, the researcher notes.After 15 years of scientific production, the facts are there, the most reluctant have sided with them, and we desperately need to visit our collections in Poitiers or display our fossil specimens in museums around the world.“He was delighted.

Professor El Albany and his team will return to Gabon to continue their research. Over the past fifteen years, they have had the opportunity to train over a dozen Capone doctoral students. Today’s objective is to obtain a definitive classification as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to protect it from potential looting, and to make this exceptional site available to the world scientific community, thanks to the Steering Committee for Research Projects. can be carried out there.

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