My daughter has, unfortunately, outgrown SpongeBob SquarePants. She was my putative excuse for watching the (literally) brainless eponymous lead character going about his inane adventures. The creator of SpongeBob, Stephen Hillenburg, is a marine biologist and much of the fun for adults watching the cartoon derived from the biologically correct remarks made by the characters about their physiological conditions. Watching the laughing yellow sponge with his inimitable voice was a pleasant escape from the constraint of my own biological existence.
Today the New Jersey Star-Ledger announced that two researchers from Princeton University may have discovered the oldest animal fossils ever recorded. It seems that for a while, some 635 million years ago, the earth was undergoing its Cryogenian Period when the planet surface was all but completely frozen. The earliest discovered animal fossils were discovered from after that period. Princeton geoscientist Adam Maloof has recovered what appear to be animal fossils from 650 million years ago, 15 million years before the big freeze. This find had been anticipated by genetic scientists who had suggested that such early animal forms likely existed prior to the appearance of the earliest sponges 520 million years ago.
For now the new finding shifts the fossil record back by about 90 million years. There will be massive gaps to be filled in by scarce traces left in inaccessible rock. Creationists will no doubt gloat that the fossil record is now even more full of holes than ever. This is frequently the quality of ambiguity that they suggest will topple the evolutionary lie. The truth, however, faces the opposite direction. The oldest creatures found are ancestors to the common sponge, pushing SpongeBob’s ancestors back many millennia before those of the Adam who discovered them. It seems to be the silly yellow sponge who will have the last laugh.