Rethinking evolution: Sex and complexity came a lot sooner than we thought

Two paleontologists studying ancient fossils they excavated in the South Australian outback argue that Earth’s ecosystem has been complex for hundreds of millions of years — at least since around 565 million years ago, which is included in a period in Earth’s history called the Neoproterozoic era.

Until now, the dominant paradigm in the field of paleobiology has been that the earliest multicellular animals were simple, and that strategies organisms use today to survive, reproduce and grow in numbers have arisen over time due to several factors. These factors include evolutionary and ecological pressures that both predators and competition for food and other resources have imposed on the ecosystem.

But in describing the ecology and reproductive strategies of Funisia dorothea, a tubular organism preserved as a fossil, the researchers found that the organism had multiple means of growing and propagating — similar to strategies used by most invertebrate organisms for propagation today.

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