Meet Bicellum brasieri, a tiny, spherical animal measuring barely a thousandth of an inch discovered in the highlands of Scotland. Bicellum lived a billion years ago, yet remains a critical precursor for all animal life still to come, including ourselves. Fast forward a billion years, and scientists have also discovered the rules that govern the growth of everything from teeth to the thorns of a rosebush.
Somewhere around 541 million years ago, multicellular life exploded on the scene, an era now known, aptly, as the Cambrian Explosion. Over the course of a relatively short period, 13-25 million years, all of the modern phyla of animals begin to appear in the fossil record. It was as if modern life and then some suddenly sprung into existence all at once.
The fossils from the Cambrian Explosion were so remarkable and plentiful it was known before even Darwin’s theory of natural selection…
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