I For One Welcome Our Comb Jelly ... Ancestor?

Ladies and gentlemen, meet your ancestor - in fact the ancestor of all animal life on Earth - the comb jelly.

Biologist Casey Dunn of Brown University and colleagues used DNA data from various species to determine that the comb jelly (Ctenophore), which emerged some 600 million years ago, is our true ancient ancestor:

Textbook knowledge says that sponges were the first cab off the rank when multicellular life began to diversify. Our study shows comb jellies, which have well-developed tissues and a nervous system, branched off from other animals even before the lowly sponge (which don't have any tissues or nerve cells). This radically changes our understanding of one of the most fundamental steps on the path to modern animals."

If comb jellies branch first, as the new tree shows, then either sponges aren't as primitively simple they seemed (new hypothesis: they could have simplified later) or else comb jellies evolved a complex body plan separately from the rest of us.'


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If evolution had been "proven", it wouldn't be called a theory anymore. The reason evolution is so widely accepted is that it makes sense and, to be completely honest, it's the best we've come up with. Biology isn't concrete, it's 'we think this happens because we've observed that'. We discover new things about the world around and inside of us every day, and biology has to be able to adapt to these changes or risk being pushed into the soft science category. I teach a class on biological ethics and integrity for college students pursuing research and the first thing I tell them is that if they're going to tell the general public that something is a fact, they had better be able to prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt over every single trial.
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This is good news for textbook publishers... I never bought the sponge theory. I like this one better. Then again, it'll probably change in another ten years anyway. That's why I love the word theory - we guarantee nothing in biology and the general public is still willing to accept it.
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