APR 11, 2017 5:30 AM PDT

Were Jellies the First Animals to Exist?

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

What was the first animal on Earth before all of these complex life forms came into existence? Many would be quick to tell you it was the sponge, but some scientists are taking a different stance on things and re-writing the world’s family tree for animals.

The debate has raged on for quite some time. There was a study that surfaced in March in the journal Current Biology that supported the idea of sponges as the first type of animal to develop on Earth, which eventually led to everything else.

On the other hand, this debate may see no end, as researchers from Vanderbilt University are now siding with marine jellies instead. Their study was published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution on April 10th.

Marine jellies may have pre-dated sponges to be the first animal species to exist on Earth.

Image Credit: dootdorin/Pixabay

Sponges were the original suspect in terms of what might have been the world’s first animal, as they’re so incredibly simple. Evolution would have then led to the animal complexity we have now. On the other hand, there are reportedly problems with this theory that presented themselves during phylogenomic studies.

Scientists compared DNA strands from different species to one another to try and develop relationships between animals and attempt to figure out which ones were more complex and which ones would have come first.

While there was a bevy of useful information that helped build the family tree of animals walking the Earth today, it also helped to stir the pot for the ongoing debate of whether either marine jellies or sponges were among the first animals to exist on Earth.

“The current method that scientists use in phylogenomic studies is to collect large amounts of genetic data, analyze the data, build a set of relationships, and then argue that their conclusions are correct because of various improvements they have made in their analysis,” said study co-author Antonis Rokas, from Vanderbilt University.

“This has worked extremely well in 95 percent of the cases, but it has led to apparently irreconcilable differences in the remaining 5 percent.”

Getting into the niddy-griddy, the researchers were able to compare one species to another, looking for genes that seemed to be related. This allowed them to draw conclusions about each of the animals’ relation to one another.

To do this, they chose one animal DNA sample to question and then two additional animal DNA samples to compare it to genetically. Whichever of the comparable animals had a closer DNA match to the original animal would be considered a genetic lineage in the so-called “family tree.”

Among the results, marine jellies had more related genes to all animals in the study than sponges did, which certainly puts a lot of scientific evidence behind marine jellies being among the first animals to exist on Earth, eventually evolving into the complex life forms we see today.

Related: The amazing new jellyfish from the Mariana Trench that you've got to see

“We believe that our approach can help resolve many of these long-standing controversies and raise the game of phylogenetic reconstruction to a new level,” Rokas continued.

While this study is sure to stir up some debate in the scientific community, it seems to certainly support the notion that marine jellies existed before sponges and that they may have been one of the springboards for all the life we have on Earth today. 

It should be interesting to see the response from nay-sayers.

Source: Vanderbilt University via Live Science

About the Author
Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
AUG 16, 2022
Immunology
Two Studies Describe Powerful Antibodies That Neutralize SARS-CoV-2
AUG 16, 2022
Two Studies Describe Powerful Antibodies That Neutralize SARS-CoV-2
SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, has mutated many times into new variants, some that we don't hear about, while others ...
SEP 02, 2022
Plants & Animals
Bumblebee Survival Negatively Impacted by Early Onset of Spring
SEP 02, 2022
Bumblebee Survival Negatively Impacted by Early Onset of Spring
Bumblebees have been all the buzz lately. Headlines abound about how bumblebee populations continue to decline across th ...
SEP 11, 2022
Technology
Walking and Slithering Share Common Characteristics
SEP 11, 2022
Walking and Slithering Share Common Characteristics
In a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers led by the Uni ...
SEP 23, 2022
Microbiology
Heme-Loving Plant Peptide Could Have Many Applications
SEP 23, 2022
Heme-Loving Plant Peptide Could Have Many Applications
Symbiotic relationships enable organisms to use one another, usually to the advantage of both. Legumes can live in symbi ...
SEP 30, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Ancient Mass Extinctions Likely from Volcanic Activity
SEP 30, 2022
Ancient Mass Extinctions Likely from Volcanic Activity
In a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers led by Dartmou ...
OCT 04, 2022
Immunology
High Guar Gum Diet May Reduce Inflammation, Symptoms of MS
OCT 04, 2022
High Guar Gum Diet May Reduce Inflammation, Symptoms of MS
Guar gum is a common food additive that is extracted from guar beans; it can help stabilize food and animal food, and is ...
Loading Comments...