890 million-year-old fossils may be the oldest sign of simple animal life on Earth, according to new research.

Iran PressSci & Tech: Recently discovered fossils belonging to ancient sponges might be the earliest known remnants of an animal body and pre-date other sponge fossils by 350 million years.

Elizabeth Turner, a professor of palaeontology and sedimentary geology at Laurentian University in Ontario, discovered what she believes are possibly the fossilized structures of sponges that once existed in reefs millions of years ago. They were found in rock samples in northwestern Canada, CNN reported.

A study on Turner's findings was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Little is known about the earliest days of animal life's emergence on Earth because the fossil record is sparse. While scientists have used genetic evidence to suggest that sponges first appeared between 541 million and 1,000 million years ago during the early Neoproterozoic era, the lack of fossilized sponges has created a knowledge gap. Turner's discovery may help fill that gap and provide a glimpse into the earliest marine animal life on Earth.

"I serendipitously came across a few very rare examples of the material during my unrelated PhD research, long ago, on fossil microbial reefs," Turner said. "When I became a professor and had my own grants, I was able to return to the field sites and collect more material so that I had a more robust collection to work from."

What she found in the ancient rock samples were fossilized structures that resembled the skeletons like those that exist within horny sponges -- the kind you use for a bath sponge. Horny sponges, also called modern keratose demosponges, have a skeleton with three-dimensional branching made of a tough organic substance called spongin.


Read More:

New fossils reveal largest land mammal