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Temporal range: 760–550Ma Tonian-Late Ediacaran
Otavia antiqua.jpg
Otavia antiqua reconstruction.jpg
Reconstruction as a sponge-like animal
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Porifera?
Genus: Otavia
Brain et al., 2012
Species: O. antiqua
Binomial name
Otavia antiqua
Brain et al., 2012

Otavia antiqua is an early sponge-like fossil found in Namibia in the Etosha National Park. It is claimed to be the oldest animal fossil, being found in rock aged between 760 and 550 million years ago. The genus was named after the Otavi group in which the fossils were found. The oldest fossils are prior to the Cryogenian glaciations, but the latest found were from the Nama group rocks which are from the Ediacaran period.[1]

The shape of the fossils is irregular but rounded. The size varies from a third of a millimetre to 5 mm (0.20 in). They are hollow inside, and have many small, osculum-like holes connecting the interior to the outside. The material of the outer wall is predominantly calcium phosphate.[1]

The affinities of these fossils, along with other paleontological evidence for precambrian sponges, are disputed.[2]


  1. ^ a b C. K. 'Bob' Brain; Anthony R. Prave; Karl-Heinz Hoffmann; Anthony E. Fallick; Andre Botha; Donald A. Herd; Craig Sturrock; Iain Young; Daniel J. Condon; Stuart G. Allison (2012). "The first animals: ca. 760-million-year-old sponge-like fossils from Namibia". South African Journal of Science. 108 (1/2). doi:10.4102/sajs.v108i1/2.658. 
  2. ^ Antcliffe, Jonathan B.; Callow, Richard H. T.; Brasier, Martin D. (November 2014). "Giving the early fossil record of sponges a squeeze". Biological Reviews. 89 (4): 972–1004. doi:10.1111/brv.12090. PMID 24779547. 

Further reading[edit]