Reef madness: Scientists find oldest animal-built marine structure

Researchers carry out field work in southern Namibia, in this undated handout photo obtained by...

Researchers carry out field work in southern Namibia, in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters on June 26, 2014. Researchers said on June 26, 2014 they found fossils of the oldest-known animal-made reef in Namibia, built by a small, filter-feeding seabed creature called Cloudina 548 million years ago. REUTERS/Rachel Wood/Handout via Reuters

Will Dunham, Reuters

, Last Updated: 3:01 PM ET

WASHINGTON - A sea creature that looked like a stack of tiny ice cream cones is providing quite a treat for scientists studying the dawn of animal life on Earth.

Researchers said on Thursday they found fossils of the oldest-known animal-made reef in Namibia, built by a small, filter-feeding seabed creature called Cloudina 548 million years ago.

The discovery indicates that important evolutionary developments were unfolding millions of years before the so-called Cambrian explosion when many of the major animal groups first appeared. It also showed that reef building by marine invertebrates, akin to today's coral reefs, began 18 million years earlier than previously known.

 


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