Friday, September 26, 2014

Algae elders

By slicing them in ultra-thin sheets and illuminating them like stained glass (ABOVE AND HERE), researchers were able to microscopically examine 600 million-year-old fossilized algal life forms from southern China, the makeup of which are too complex and differentiated to be single-celled organisms. The strange fossils – called Megasphaera, and measuring a mere .03" (.7 mm) acrossmay in fact be embryos, although no adult specimens have ever been found. Geobiologist Shuhai Xiao of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S., points out, "The real value of these fossils is that we now have some direct evidence about how this transition from single-celled organisms to things like animals and plants occurred in the evolutionary past."

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