Otavia antiqua

It looks like an insignificant spec of dust, but if scientists are right, it could be the ancestor of us all.

Meet Otavia antiqua, a microscopic, sponge-like African fossil that could be the earliest known animal…

The creature, Otavia antiqua, was found in 760-million-year-old rock in Namibia and was as tiny as it may be important.

“The fossils are small, about the size of a grain of sand, and we have found many hundreds of them,” said study leader Anthony Prave, a geologist at the University of St. Andrews in the U.K.

“In fact, when we look at thin sections of the rocks, certain samples would likely yield thousands of specimens. Thus, it is possible that the organisms were very abundant.”

From these tiny “sponges” sprang very big things, the authors suggest. As possibly the first muticellular animals, Otavia could well be the forerunner of dinosaurs, humans-basically everything we think of as “animal.”

Read more at National Geographic: Link (Photo: Anthony Prave/University of St. Andrews)