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A rock that lies about its age.

The age of some rocks in India has proved more elusive than that of a Hollywood starlet. Last month, paleontologists reported finding worm burrows in a 1.1-billion-year-old sandstone. These marks are more than a half-billion years older than any other signs of animal life. An Indian geologist then challenged this discovery when he reported finding shells that date the rocks to less than 545 million years old (SN: 10/17/98, p. 255).

Now, the younger age has drawn criticism. At a meeting of the Geological Society of America in Toronto last month, Nicholas J. Butterfield of the University of Cambridge in England announced that he had taken a look at the supposed shells and dismissed them as artifacts created when the rock was dissolved in acid during the laboratory analysis.

The new turn of events suggests that the rocks may indeed be ancient, but it doesn't resolve whether animals made the traces. "I've got a problem with these traces because there's a missing 500 million years" during which there is no other evidence for animal life, says Butterfield.
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Title Annotation:finding worm burrows in a 1.1-billion-year-old sandstone
Publication:Science News
Date:Nov 21, 1998
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