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Early animals dethroned

Cell division in controversial fossils places them outside the animal kingdom

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5:20pm, December 22, 2011

The oldest known "animal" fossils may have been living in the wrong kingdom. New images suggest that 570-million-year-old, many-celled blobs from China are not animal embryos as once thought, but rather some kind of spore-releasing cyst.

“They are not animals and they are not embryos,” says Stefan Bengtson, a paleobiologist at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm. The work, done with colleagues including Philip Donoghue of the University of Bristol in England, appears in the Dec. 23 Science.

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