Researchers at the University of Edinburgh and University College London, in collaboration with the Geological Survey Namibi, have been found in Namibia (Africa) the oldest reef built by the first animals with skeleton known. Specifically, the new reef is composed of species Cloudina, who joined and cemented together.
Reef-building in metazoans represents an important ecological innovation whereby individuals collectively enhance feeding efficiency and gain protection from competitors and predation. The appearance of metazoan reefs in the fossil record therefore indicates an adaptive response to complex ecological pressures.
Until now, the oldest reefs formed from these metazoan animals had dated at 530 million years.
The researchers believed that certain defensive strategies, such as forming skeletons or build reefs emerged largely in response to the rapid onset of most kinds of large animals about 540 million years ago.
This new finding, contradicts this theory and implies that metazoan reefs built millions of years before the Cambrian explosion.
Furthermore, the evolutionary pressures that resulted in hard parts of animals, such as skeletons and reefs were also present millions of years before that period of diversification of organisms.