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    The Neoproterozoic included changes in oceanic redox conditions, the configuration of continents and climate, extreme ice ages (Sturtian and Marinoan), and the rise of complex life forms. A much-debated topic in geobiology concerns the influence of atmospheric oxygenation on Earth and the origin and diversification of animal lineages, with the most widely popularized hypotheses relying on causal links between oxygen levels and the rise of animals. The vast majority of extant animals use aerobic metabolism for growth and homeostasis; hence, the binding and transportation of oxygen represent a vital physiological task. Considering the blood pigment hemocyanin (Hc) is present in sponges and ctenophores, and likely to be present in the common ancestor of animals, we investigated the evolution and date of Hc emergence using bioinformatics approaches on both transcriptomic and genomic data. Bayesian molecular dating suggested that the ancestral animal Hc gene arose approximately 881 Ma during the Tonian Period (1000-720 Ma), prior to the extreme glaciation events of the Cryogenian Period (720-635 Ma). This result is corroborated by a recently discovered fossil of a putative sponge ~890 Ma and modern molecular dating for the origin of metazoans of ~1,000-650 Ma (but does contradict previous inferences regarding the origin of Hc ~700-600 Ma). Our data reveal that crown-group animals already possessed hemocyanin-like blood pigments, which may have enhanced the oxygen-carrying capacity of these animals in hypoxic environments at that time or acted in the transport of hormones, detoxification of heavy metals, and immunity pathways. © 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


    Elisa Maria Costa-Paiva, Beatriz Mello, Bruno Santos Bezerra, Christopher J Coates, Kenneth M Halanych, Federico Brown, Juliana de Moraes Leme, Ricardo I F Trindade. Molecular dating of the blood pigment hemocyanin provides new insight into the origin of animals. Geobiology. 2022 May;20(3):333-345

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    PMID: 34766436

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