Researchers from University of Cambridge found evidence of possibly the earliest form of reproduction in a complex organism. The group was conducting research in the Trinity Bay area of Newfoundland, Canada, looking at a fossil called Fractofusus. This fossil is 565 million years old and is one of the earliest complex organisms known.
The researchers found a cluster of Fractofusus that displayed three generations: young, middle aged, and old. This cluster pattern suggested that Fractofusus could reproduce by a process called asexual reproduction.
The research team feels that Fractofusus may have had two methods of reproduction. The first method is presently observed in modern plants, like strawberries. In this fashion of reproduction, smaller offspring grow from runners sent from the older generation. The second method of reproduction that Fractofusus demonstrates is by utilizing seed-like propagules. A propagule a part of a plant, like a bud, which detaches and grows into a new plant. The researchers feel this is where the old population of Fractofusus in the sample came from.
It is still being debated if Fractofusus was an animal or plant. It lived at the bottom of the ocean and was not exposed to sunlight; therefore, it wouldn't have been plant based. However, scientists still aren't sold on the idea of Fractofusus being categorized in the animal kingdom. There will surely be much more debate in the future to determine which kingdom Fractofusus falls under.