Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Wait......that’s not the sky.......
Good day one and all and welcome to another post of odd. I know it’s been a couple of weeks since my last post, but that’s the way life works sometimes. You get busy and miss a week, then you get sick and miss a week. And your borderline OCD prevents you from posting an oddity on a day you haven’t decided was an oddity day.
Wait....that’s not borderline OCD......that’s laziness. I keep confusing those two.
I shouldn’t joke about OCD. My sister is borderline OCD. I don’t know if she would get a clinical diagnosis of OCD, but she sure exhibits a lot, (but not all), of the traits of someone who is. Of course, borderline OCD is kind of an oxymoron. It’s like having a good case of diarrhea. I mean, it’s bad.....but not BAD bad. It could be much worse.
Anyway, look at the picture. I want you to concentrate on it. Focus all your attention on the picture. Examine every nook and cranny. Study it. Absorb it. Become one with the picture. Lose yourself in it. Drift into it. Memorize it so you can see it when your eyelids close. Your eyelids are getting heavy. You want to close your eyes and be in the picture. You are at peace. Now you want to take out your checkbook. You want to send otter a check. And cash. Lots and lots of cash.
Um....haha......I was just kidding. I would never try to hyp-mo-tize you into sending me money. Unless it actually worked. In that case, send it to........
Whatever. Let’s get on with this dog and pony show.
Anyone who remembers the old Otters Oddities will remember I have an interest in old dead things. And I like to collect old dead things that have turned into rock. Most people call them fossils, but I prefer the term ‘old dead things that are now rock’. Because I’m cool like that.
The fossil that is pictured is not one I have in my collection. At least, I don’t think I do. One might be hiding on some other fossil, but I’d really doubt it. Because this one is old. Really old. Not as old as my stromatolite or Porpita, but older than any other complex life form I have.*
It’s called Otavia antiqua. And it’s about 760 million years old. That’s like, even older than me. It lived in an era known as the Cryogenian.
For a refresher, the Cryogenian was the period of time spanning from 850 million years ago to about 650 million years ago. And what made the Cryogenian so special was the fact that it was the time when Earth was called ‘Snowball Earth’.
Snowball Earth was when the entire planet was covered by ice sheets. At least, scientists think it was. No one was around to see, so all they can do is check the evidence. And the evidence suggests that the Earth was a ball of ice.
So it’s amazing that Otavia fossils exist. The reason for that is the supposed food that Otavia fed on required sunlight to live. And if the entire planet was covered in sheets of ice, how did the cyanobacteria get sunlight? It’s one of the questions science is trying to answer.
But what is it that makes Otavia so special that it warrants a post? It’s the fact that Otavia is the oldest known complex life form on the planet.** And if that’s the case, that means that every living thing today has descended from Otavia.
Scientists aren’t exactly what it looked like in life, but they all lean towards the idea that Otavia was sponge-like in form. The fossils we have are hollow shells with several openings, similar to the structure of sponges. However, unlike sponges, Otavia was only the size of a grain of sand. This is a problem with many forms of early life. A lot of it was so small that complex life could have existed but was too small for us to find traces of them.
Whatever they were, what we know is they are really old. We may find older complex life someday, or we might not. Until then, Otavia get’s the rocking chair and garden hose award for being the oldest thing on the planet that want’s you to get off it’s lawn.
* Simple life can be described as single or multiple cellular forms of life where all cells perform the same functions. Complex life is where different cells perform different functions like internal organs and skeletal structures.
** While the Porpita porpita fossils I have are about 800 million years old, there is still some debate as to if they were complex life or simple life. Some think they weren’t life and the ‘fossils’ are a result of mineralization.