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Vampire microbes sucked some ancient life dry

Punctures in 750-million-year-old eukaryote fossils suggest predation drove self-defense evolution

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4:49pm, November 2, 2015
microbe

VAMPIRE DIARIES  Fossils from around 750 million years ago show evidence of vampirelike predation similar to that of the modern Vampyrella ulothrichis, shown here eating the innards of green algae. 

BALTIMORE — Microscopic vampires may have prowled the ancient seas around 750 million years ago. The fossilized remains of their punctured victims may be the oldest direct evidence of predators hunting eukaryotes, a domain of complex organisms that includes plants and animals.

While the monstrous microbes probably didn’t look like miniature Count Draculas, “they’re just as terrifying, at least if you’re a single-celled organism,” said paleontologist Susannah Porter of the University of California, Santa Barbara November 1 at the Geological Society of America's annual meeting.

The predators perforated holes in their prey and then slurped the victim’s juicy innards, Porter proposed. This predation helped drive single- and multicelled eukaryotes to evolve innovations such as skeletons and the ability to burrow as they fought to survive, Porter suggested.

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