The organism was very primitive and round, but its internal composition – with two distinct cell types – marks the first step towards more complexity.

The discovery also suggests multicellular animals began to evolve one billion years ago and in different environments than previously thought – freshwater lakes and not the oceans.

Professor Charles Wellman from the University of Sheffield and the lead investigator said: “The origins of complex multicellularity and the origin of animals are considered two of the most important events in the history of life on Earth, our discovery sheds new light on both of these.

“We have found a primitive spherical organism made up of an arrangement of two distinct cell types, the first step towards a complex multicellular structure, something which has never been described before in the fossil record.


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