Date:

Animals built reefs 550 million years ago, fossil study finds

It is an extraordinary survivor of an ancient aquatic world- now a new study unveils how one of Earth’s oldest reefs was formed.

Researchers have discovered that one of these reefs- now located on dry land in Namibia- was created almost 550 million years ago, by the first animals to have hard shells.

- Advertisement -

Scientists say it was at this time that tiny aquatic creatures gained the ability to construct hard protective coats and construct reefs for shelter and protection in what was becoming an increasingly dangerous world.

Spitzkoppe, Namibia: Fotopedia
Spitzkoppe, Namibia: Fotopedia

They were the first animals to build structures similar to non-living reefs, which are constructed through the natural processes of erosion and sediment deposition.

The study reveals that the animals attached themselves to fixed surfaces, and each other, by producing natural cement comprising of calcium carbonate, to form rigid structures.

The creatures- known as Cloudina– built these reefs in ancient seas that now form part of Namibia. The fossilized remains that are left behind are the oldest reefs of their type in the world.

- Advertisement -

Cloudina were tiny, filter-feeding creatures that lived on the seabed during the Ediacaran Period, which ended 541 million years ago. Fossil evidence has shown that animals had soft bodies until the emergence of Cloudina.

Findings from the study- led by scientists at the University of Edinburgh- supports previous research that suggested that species developed new features and behaviors in order to survive due to environmental pressures.

Researchers say animals have developed the ability to build reefs because of the need to protect themselves from increased threats from predators. Reefs also provided access to nutrient-rich currents at a time when there was growing competition for both food and living space.

Scientists say the development of hard biological structures- through a process called biomineralisation- created a dramatic increase in the biodiversity of aquatic ecosystems.

The study, published in the journal Science, was carried as a collaboration with University College London and the Geological Survey of Namibia. The work was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council, the University of Edinburg and the Laidlaw Trust.

Professor Rachel Wood, Professor of Carbonate GeoScience at the University of Edinburgh, who led the study, said: “Modern reefs are major centres of biodiversity with sophisticated ecosystems. Animals like corals build reefs to defend against predators and competitors. We have found that animals were building reefs even before the evolution of complex animal life, suggesting that there must have been selective pressures in the Precambrian Period that we have yet to understand.”

 

Contributing Source: University of Edinburgh

Header Image Source: blog.queensland.com

- Advertisement -
spot_img
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.
spot_img

Mobile Application

spot_img

Related Articles

Sealed 18th century glass bottles discovered at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

As part of a $40 million Mansion Revitalisation Project, archaeologists have discovered two sealed 18th century glass bottles at George Washington's Mount Vernon.

Study suggests human occupation in Patagonia prior to the Younger Dryas period

Archaeologists have conducted a study of lithic material from the Pilauco and Los Notros sites in north-western Patagonia, revealing evidence of human occupation in the region prior to the Younger Dryas period.

Fort excavation uncovers Roman sculpture

Archaeologists excavating Stuttgart’s Roman fort have uncovered a statue depicting a Roman god.

The history of the Oak Island Money Pit

Oak Island, located in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, is a small 140-acre island which has been the subject of an ongoing treasure hunt since 1795.

Has the burial of an Anglo-Saxon king been uncovered?

Wessex founder Cerdic’s possible final resting place has emerged more than 1,000 years after it was named in an ancient royal charter.

Archaeologists uncover 4,200-year-old “zombie grave”

Archaeologists from the State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt have uncovered a "zombie grave" during excavations near Oppin, Germany.

Archaeologists uncover 2,000-year-old clay token used by pilgrims

A clay token unearthed by the Temple Mount Sifting Project, is believed to have served pilgrims exchanging offerings during the Passover festival 2,000-years-ago.

Moon may have influenced Stonehenge construction

A study by a team of archaeoastronomers are investigating the possible connection of the moon in influencing the Stonehenge builders.