After extensive study of nautiloid fossils, Ward craved seeing a living Nautilus in its natural habitat off the coast of New Caledonia. Unfortunately, these animals spend most of their time on the sea floor, over 1000 feet below the surface, much deeper than a human in SCUBA gear can safely dive. However each night, the creatures rise to the surface to feed and then before morning return to the bottom to avoid being eaten by faster moving animals like fish. Ward traveled to New Caledonia, and dove at night in dangerous waters in order to observe this ancient species of mollusc in its natural habitat -- a species that has survived nearly unchanged for hundreds of millions of years.
How do we know sponges were our ancestors? It turns out that all organisms in their genes carry clues to their evolutionary history -- a unique set of acquired genetic changes passed on through countless generations. This fact allowed Mitch Sogin to compare and contrast specific sets of genetic differences between sponges, flies, fish, frogs, humans and other organisms. He discovered that sponges, indeed, were the start of the animal kingdom and laid the foundation for all animals to follow.