Scientists believe that this is the animal from which everything else evolved. The first multicellular being that spawned every living being in this world through billions of mutations, from fish to amphibians to reptiles to birds to mammals to you.
It's an amazing discovery.
Its name is Otavia antiqua, and it is the oldest animal ever discovered: 760 million years old. Scientists claim that it used to chill out in calm, nice, shallow waters, chewing on algae and bacteria through its pores and into its little tube body.
Otavia was a sponge. A tiny one, no larger than a grain of sand. Paleontologist Dr. Bob Brain—famous for his work in hominids before his retirement—and geologist Anthony Prave—from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland—found the fossils of many hundreds of Otavia specimens in a rock at Etosha National Park, in Namibia. According to Prave, "certain samples would likely yield thousands of specimens. Thus, it is possible that the organisms were very abundant."
Apparently, it was also very resilient. The research data—published in the South African Journal of Science—shows that it survived at least two Snowball Earths, events that researchers think happened more than 650 million years ago. During a Snowball Earth period, the entire planet was almost entirely covered with ice.
The little critter persevered almost unchanged through those times, resisting along with algae and bacteria for roughly 200 million years, just before the Cambrian explosion, when Earth started to fill up with many different animals.
Dr Brain—who is an expert in predation—believes that Otavia was also the Earth's first predator. During those very early days, it sat on top of the food chain, uncontested, eating his food even while it had no means to hunt. According to him, it was the first in the evolutionary arms race. Otavia, he says, "led to man dominating the planet."
It doesn't look too menacing to me, but considering the its track record through those hundreds of millions of years, maybe Otavia was a BMF in disguise, after all. [South African Journal of Science and The Star via National Geographic]