Earliest animal footprints found in China

Rodiano Bonacci
Giugno 8, 2018

At the moment, this is believed to be the first footprint ever left by an animal on Earth.

"The footprints are organised in two parallel rows, as expected if they were made by animals with paired appendages", Xiao told The Independent.

For comparison, non-bilateral animals include sponges, corals, jellyfish, and anemones.

An global team of scientists has reported the discovery of oldest footprints ever found on Earth, which was left behind by a mysterious animal that roamed our planet sometime between 541 and 551 million years ago - way before many known animals, including dinosaurs, thrived and became extinct.

Life during the Ediacaran was characterized by algae, lichens, giant protozoans, worms, and various bacteria, but there's still a lot that paleontologists don't know about it.

These animals are long gone and extinct, but they've made their mark on ancient rocks, making it possible for scientists to piece together the world back then.

This remarkable discovery is hailed in a study, published yesterday in the journal Science Advances by a research team from Virginia Tech University in the US and the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology (NIGP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"Previously identified footprints are between 540 and 530 million years old". The newfound trace fossils are some of the earliest known evidence for animal appendages on record. This means that the mystery animal might have periodically dug into the ocean floor's sediments and microbial matts, possibly to mine for oxygen and food, the researchers said.

Now, the discovery of the trackways and burrows shows that animals with appendages lived during the Ediacaran period, the researchers said.

Yet the bilaterian that left behind the Earth's oldest footprints were spectacularly evolved for creatures living during the Ediacaran Period (about 635-541 million years ago), reveals the study.

Bilaterian animals such as arthropods and annelids have paired appendages and are among the most diverse animals today and in the geological past.

As modern arthropods and annelids served as appropriate analogs for the interpretation of this fossil, the researchers posit the animal in question could be the ancestor of either of the two groups. Other research has suggested that the evolutionary roots of bilaterians should go back further than that, but fossils had never turned up until now.

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