The creationists won’t like the news we saw reported at PhysOrg: Bag-like sea creature was humans’ oldest known ancestor. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
Researchers have identified traces of what they believe is the earliest known prehistoric ancestor of humans — a microscopic, bag-like sea creature, which lived about 540 million years ago.
Creationists are horrified to think that they might be related to monkeys, so you can imagine their reaction to this: I ain’t no kin to no microscopic, bag-like sea creature! Well, they’ve got lots of experience in denying reality, so they’ll have no problem denying this too. Let’s read on:
Named Saccorhytus, after the sack-like features created by its elliptical body and large mouth, the species is new to science and was identified from microfossils found in China. It is thought to be the most primitive example of a so-called “deuterostome” — a broad biological category that encompasses a number of sub-groups, including the vertebrates.
Wikipedia has an article on Deuterostomes, but we’ll stay with PhysOrg, which then says:
If the conclusions of the study, published in the journal Nature, are correct, then Saccorhytus was the common ancestor of a huge range of species, and the earliest step yet discovered on the evolutionary path that eventually led to humans, hundreds of millions of years later.
Here’s the paper in Nature: Palaeontology: Tiny fossils in the animal family tree. You’ll need a subscription to read more than the brief abstract, which says: “Newly discovered microscopic fossils might shed light on the early evolution of the deuterostomes, the animal group that includes vertebrates. But more work is needed to resolve the fossils’ place in the deuterostome tree.” Okay, back to PhysOrg:
Modern humans are, however, unlikely to perceive much by way of a family resemblance. Saccorhytus was about a millimetre in size, and probably lived between grains of sand on the seabed. Its features were spectacularly preserved in the fossil record — and intriguingly, the researchers were unable to find any evidence that the animal had an anus.
No anus? Well, these things take time. Let’s continue reading:
Simon Conway Morris, Professor of Evolutionary Palaeobiology and a Fellow of St John’s College, University of Cambridge, said: “We think that as an early deuterostome this may represent the primitive beginnings of a very diverse range of species, including ourselves. To the naked eye, the fossils we studied look like tiny black grains, but under the microscope the level of detail is jaw-dropping. All deuterostomes had a common ancestor, and we think that is what we are looking at here.”
There’s much more, but one last excerpt is all we’ll give you — it’s about that missing anus:
A crucial observation are small conical structures on its body. These may have allowed the water that it swallowed to escape and so were perhaps the evolutionary precursor of the gills we now see in fish. But the researchers were unable to find any evidence that the creature had an anus. “If that was the case, then any waste material would simply have been taken out back through the mouth, which from our perspective sounds rather unappealing,” Conway Morris said.
So there you are. Now we await the creationist reactions. We’ll run the risk of making a prediction — they’re not going to like this.
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