August 11, 2021

assistant professor of Geology Drew Muscente was recently quoted in an article by TheScientist, “890 million-year-old fossils are sponges, oldest animals: study. “

Drew Muscent

This is a new study that suggests sponges may have existed hundreds of millions of years before scientists previously thought.

Muscente shared their expertise in the results article:

“There is room to be skeptical,” says Drew Muscente, a paleontologist at Cornell College in Iowa who was not involved in the study. His work has mainly focused on the skeletons produced by certain sponges, called spicules, usually made of silica or calcium carbonate. “These are unambiguous structures that sponges produce, so you would imagine that a sponge at some point in Earth’s history – perhaps the earliest sponges – had these structures that you identify,” he adds. he. It is more difficult to identify bath sponges because they do not produce spicules.

“Could these structures be sponges? Yes. Are we sure these are sponges? I’m not, ”Muscente adds, acknowledging that he may be“ too conservative, ”but the evidence is circumstantial at this point.

On the other hand, if researchers “accept these structures as the oldest sponge fossils, it will really help shed light, not only on the origin of sponges, but on the time of the origin of life.” animal as a whole, because it would be the oldest animal fossils, period, ”says Muscente.

The geology professor and his students at Cornell College study the fossil record to better understand the evolution and preservation of ancient marine animal life. This research involves a mixture of field and laboratory work on fossil specimens as well as a range of computational methods applied to large databases.

According to TheScientist website, the magazine is a publication for life science professionals with published articles on cell and molecular biology, genetics, and other areas of the life sciences.