BEACON TRANSCRIPT – The scientists at MIT have reasons to believe that all life on Earth likely originates from sea sponges. A lab experiment involving 640 million-years-old rocks showed high levels of a lipid molecule, typically produced by the sea sponges.
It may be just another wild goose chase, but the scientists have their reasons to believe that the first creature to ever walk the Earth was, in fact, the sea sponge. Their reasons for this assumption lie within a chemical analysis performed on a series of rocks dating from the Cambrian period (approximately 542 million years ago).
The study at hand was performed by a team of scientists from MIT, headed by David Gold, a post-doc student. Upon sampling the ancient rocks, the team discovered traces of a lipid molecule, which is very similar to cholesterol. Dubbed 24-IPC, this molecule can only be produced by a handful of organisms.
Prompted by this unusual discovery, the team from MIT called in more muscle in the hope of unravelling this mystery. Paleontologists and geneticists were brought in an attempt to track the origin of this lipid molecule.
In a press interview, Doctor Gold declared that as unlikely as it would seem, this newly discovered molecule might be indeed the molecular fossil of a sea sponge. He also explained that if the results are validated, then the whole timeline will shift considerably.
As we know from natural history, before the Cambrian explosion event, which took place roughly 542 million years ago, all life on Earth consisted of unicellular organisms (eukaryotes). If the analysis confirms the origin of the cholesterol-like lipid, then we can safely state that the ancestor of the modern-day sea sponge was indeed the father of all life on Earth.
As Summons, another researcher from MIT, notes, this discovery is the fruit of 20-year worth of research. He also declared that this also teaches us that there is still to be discovered in the area of evolution.
So, what did the scientists actually find in those ancient rocks? As we stated before, the rocks submitted to multiple tests originated from the Cambrian era, which is unanimously considered to be a milestone in evolution. During this period, several new animal species appeared, as organisms began to shift from single-cells to multi-cells.
According to their theory, the molecular fossils found inside the rock proves once and for all that life on Earth predates the Cambrian explosion. And looking at the evidence uncovered, it would seem that the boys managed to solve the riddle.
To see which organism could produce the 24-IPC molecule, the scientists selected over 30 candidates. They discovered a single gene called SMT that is actually capable of producing the 24-IPC molecule and guess what, this gene belongs to the sea sponge.
The team from MIT concluded that all life on Earth likely originates from sea sponges. Their project is indeed ground-breaking because it is able to shift the entire timeline.