Earliest animal fossil footprints discovered in China

08 June, 2018, 22:21 | Author: Darnell Taylor

The fossil footprints for animal appendages was made in the Ediacaran Period, about 635 to 541 million years ago in China, according to the study. There has always been an assumption that they have appeared and radiated unexpectedly in the Cambrian Explosion that took place around 541-510 million years ago.

A staff member of the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences displays the animal fossil footprints, which were made in the Ediacaran Period, June 6, 2018.

Further, the footprints left behind by its multiple feet suggest that this sea-dwelling animal had paired appendages that raised its body above the ocean floor.

The fossil reportedly consists of two rows of imprints that represent the earliest known record of an animal that has legs. Precisely what the creature looked like is a mystery, though: nothing this old with legs has been discovered to date.

The tracks of life show that the animal burrowed its way into sediments and microbial mats, probably looking for food or oxygen, which was very rare before the Cambrian explosion.

The scientists were examining a geological area known as the Denying Formation in the Yangtze Gorges area of South China.

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No body fossils for these animals have been found yet, however, and the scientists believe such remnants may not have been preserved.

An global team of scientists, including researchers from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, and Virginia Tech in the United States, conducted the study.

"If an animal makes footprints, the footprints are depressions on the sediment surface, and the depressions are filled with sediments from the overlying layer". While scientists are not sure exactly which beast made the footprints, the fossils have been estimated to be around 551 million years old.

"At least three living groups of animals have paired appendages (represented by arthropods, such as bumblebees; annelids, such as bristle worms; and tetrapods, such as humans)", Chen added.

The researchers speculate that the same creature left both the tracks and the burrows, suggesting an animal that scurried and tunneled its way across the ground.

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.

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