via Live Science:
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A series of mysterious spherical fossils found in southern China may be remnants of some of the world’s earliest animals.
A new study finds that these controversial fossils are not likely to be bacteria or single-celled protists; their cells, preserved for more than 600 million years in rock, are too complex and differentiated. Instead, the fossils may be multicellular algae, or even the embryosof ancient animals.
“The real value of these fossils is that we now have some direct evidence about how this transition from single-celled organisms to things like animals and plants occurred in the evolutionary past,” said study researcher Shuhai Xiao, a geobiologist at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. [See images of the strange spherical fossils]
Multicellular and differentiated
The bizarre fossils, known as Megasphaera, come from a rock layer in southern China called the Doushantuo Formation.