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The early evolution and radiation of eukaryotes and its relationship to environmental change, and the fossil record of the earliest skeletal animals. Research involves fieldwork, microscopy, descriptive systematics, and paleoecological and taphonomic analyses. Citation Summary: Google Scholar. First record of cambroclaves from Laurentia.

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Half-moon shaped holes black arrows and circular holes white arrows in — million-year-old fossils of shell-forming amoebae from the Chuar Group of the Grand Canyon, Arizona. Holes are approximately 15 to 35 micrometers in size: shells are 75 to micrometers in length. Circular holes thought to have been formed by predatory vampirelike protists that drilled into the walls of their prey in a microfossil from the Chuar Group of the Grand Canyon, Arizona.

Note the presence of multiple holes indicated by orange circles.

At least, the amoebae variety has. Using a scanning electron microscope to examine minute fossils, Porter found perfectly circular drill holes that may have been formed by an ancient relation of Vampyrellidae amoebae. These single-celled creatures perforate the walls of their prey and reach inside to consume its cell contents. Eukaryotes are organisms whose cells contain a nucleus Barbara other organelles such as mitochondria. We had nothing like that for early life — for the time before animals appear.

These holes potentially provide a way of looking at predator-prey interactions in very deep time in ancient microbial ecosystems. Porter examined fossils from the Chuar Group in the Grand Canyon — once an ancient seabed — that are between and million years old. The holes are about one micrometer one thousandth of a millimeter in diameter and occur in seven of the species dating identified. The holes are not common in any single one species; in fact, they appear in not more than 10 percent of the specimens. The Vampyrellid amoebae make a great modern analog, but because vampirelike Santa behavior is known in a of porter unrelated amoebae, it makes it difficult to pin down exactly who the predator was.

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According to Porter, this evidence may help to address the question of whether predation was one of the driving factors in the diversification of eukaryotes that took place about million years ago. Porter also is interested in seeing whether oxygen played a role in predation levels through time.

She noted that the microfossils those organisms attacked were probably phytoplankton living in oxygenated surface waters, but like vampyrellid amoebae today, the predators may have lived in the sediments. She suggests that those phytoplankton made tough-walled cysts — resting structures now preserved as fossils — that sank to the bottom where they were attacked by the amoebae. So one of our motivations is to see if we can find these coffins in the fossil assemblage as well.

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Paleobiologist Susannah Porter finds evidence of predation in ancient microbial ecosystems dating back more than million years. By Julie Cohen.

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Wednesday, May 25, - Santa Barbara, CA. The Chuar Group in the Grand Canyon was once an ancient seabed. Photo Credit: Carol Dehler.

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