French scientists have discovered fossils that suggest that multi-cellular life appeared on earth far earlier than originally believed. Let's see what they've unearthed.
It could be a discovery that changes our understanding of how life first appeared on Earth.
A group of French scientists have unearthed evidence that they say proves the first multi-cellular organisms came into being some 2.1 billion years ago.
That’s more than one-and-a-half billion years earlier than previously thought.
The discovery was made in the west central African nation of Gabon in one of the best-preserved fossil-bearing sites in the world, by a group of paleontologists who stumbled across the findings by accident.
When they brought their samples back to France for analysis, they found fossils of organisms three to five centimeters long buried in the rocks that were formed 2.1 billion years ago.
One of the scientists involved, Abderrazak El Albani, is very excited about the findings and hopes to stimulate an international research effort into the discovery.
[Abderrazak El Albani, French Scientist]:
"This discovery enabled us to move the cursor of origins of multi-cellular life back by 1.5 billion years, compared to what is known and accepted in the huge amount of existing literature. So it is, actually, a major discovery, opening the door to an obviously animated debate.”
Now he says scientists all over the world want to be part of the project and there are many questions that still have to be answered.
El Albani and his team are flying again to Gabon mid-July to collect more fossils and to negotiate with Gabonese authorities to help protect the site.