Science

Scientists Discover the Oldest Animal Footprints on Earth

Scientists Discover the Oldest Animal Footprints on Earth

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

An global research team discovered the fossil tracks in China dating back to the Ediacaran Period, just before the Cambrian Explosion when life on Earth increased rapidly.

Researchers from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in collaboration with the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University examined trackways and burrows in sediment dating back to the Ediacaran Period. The research was published in Science Advances on June 6, 2018.

The body fossils of the animals that made these traces, however, have not yet been found.

They said they don't know exactly what species the footprints belong to, but described the creature as a bilaterian animal, like an arthropod.

In a release put out by the Chinese Academy of Sciences- Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, researchers noted that the fossils were from the Ediacaran Period- about 635-541 million years ago. The rocks they come from are dated to between 551 million and 541 million years old.

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As the Inquisitr previously reported, up until that historic event, which lasted for 20-25 million years and gave rise to most of the major animal groups on the planet, animal life on Earth was limited to simpler, single-celled or multicellular organisms.

'The footprints are organised in two parallel rows, as expected if they were made by animals with paired appendages. "Also, they are organized in repeated groups, as expected if the animal had multiple paired appendages".

The animal appears to have paused from time to time, since the trackways appear to be connected to burrows that may have been dug into the sediment, "perhaps to mine oxygen and food", said the report.

"Arthropods and annelids, or their ancestors, are possibilities".

Animals use their appendages or outgrowths to move around, make their homes, feed, and find mates. The fossil of the animal has not been found or maybe it never got preserved.

"Although the exact identity of the trace maker of the Shibantan trackways is hard to determine in the absence of body remains at the end of the trackways, we suggest that the trace maker was probably a bilaterian animal with paired appendages", the authors reported.


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