This, from the free daily UK paper called the Metro:
- "If you felt a bit soggy while walking through the snow this week, it's because your relatives were sponges. Well, your ancestors who lived 635 million years ago were.
Mankind is thought to have evolved from primitive sea sponges, according to a study of fossils found in rocks in Oman.
They are thought to date to the last ice age, according to the US research in Nature journal."
- Meet the ancestors: Earliest evidence of life suggests humans descended from sponges 635 million years ago
- "Now scientists say they have discovered the missing link in the chain of evolution. They have found evidence of the oldest animal life yet discovered on Earth – ancient sponges that lived 635 million years ago".
Anyone reading this on the 8.20 tube from Cockfosters would understand that the research is about discovering ancestors (i.e., missing links, a poriferan Adam & Eve). I had to see what Brocks & Butterfield (2009) wrote about 'ancestors':
- "So, what exactly were the organisms that produced these biomarkers? The most obvious answer, and the one that the authors plump for, is that demosponges had evolved and become ecologically prominent by at least the late Cryogenian. But this conclusion overlooks the evolutionary nature of biological taxa and the incremental assembly of defining characteristics along (now-extinct) 'stem lineages'. It is only with a full complement of such characteristics — in the last common ancestor of the extant 'crown group' — that modern taxonomic boundaries apply (...) Combined with new biomarker data and molecular phylo genomics, the identification of such signals promises to pinpoint the first appearance of our earliest animal ancestors." (Brocks and Butterfield, 2009: 673).
The Daily Mail Online however, do go on to publish a Reuters report by Michael Kahn that best summaries the research: "Chemical traces left in 635 million-year-old rocks in Oman provide the earliest evidence so far of animal life, researchers said Wednesday". Why the Mail didn't go with Reuter's original title Scientists find earliest evidence of animal life has more to do with sensationalism than with science journalism.
Jochen J. Brocks, Nicholas J. Butterfield (2009). Biogeochemistry: Early animals out in the cold Nature, 457 (7230), 672-673 DOI: 10.1038/457672a