Princeton researchers led by Adam Maloof believe they’ve discovered the most ancient remains of animals on earth, found in rocks in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia. The fossils have been dated at nearly 650 million years old, 70 or more million years older than any other animal remains have been dated.
The fossils were originally mistaken for mud chips embedded in the rocks.
According to the scientists, the fossils—which take the form of “circles, anvils, wishbones and rings,” BBC News reports—are from a sponge-like creature about a centimeter in size. The fossils were originally mistaken for mud chips embedded in the rocks, Maloof explained, and the team still cannot answer how the organisms survived a supposed ice age that occurred near that time.
South Australian Museum researcher Jim Gehling is skeptical, however. The fossils “may just as easily be mineralised bacterial cells or some other sort to single-celled microbes,” he said. “The problem is that we have no idea what the very earliest sponges may have looked like. This means that the discovery of any weird shape in rocks of this age may lead to claims of the ‘oldest sponge-grade fossils’.”
Determining what creature a particular fossil was and when it was formed requires several layers of interpretation. For example, the date of 650 million years is based on evolutionary and geological assumptions. If even fellow evolutionists are skeptical about just what these South Australia finds are, then it’s no surprise that as creationists, we too are skeptical. Furthermore, whether they are sponges, sponge-like creatures, or microbes, they would have existed only since creation—approximately 6,000 years ago.
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