Oldest fossil footprints on Earth discovered in China

08 June, 2018, 15:25 | Author: Darnell Taylor

The odd-looking prehistoric trackways show two rows of imprints that resemble a series of repeated footprints, the researchers said.

The trackways' characteristics indicate that a bilaterian animal - that is, a creature with bilateral symmetry that has a head at one end, a back end at the other, and a symmetrical right and left side - made the tracks.

The Chinese and American team led by Dr Shuhai Xiao, from Virginia Tech in the United States, wrote in the journal Science Advances: "The irregular arrangement of tracks in the trackways may be taken as evidence that the movement of their trace maker's appendages was poorly coordinated and is distinct from the highly coordinated metachronal (wave-like) rhythm typical of modern arthropods". "Unless the animal died and was preserved next to its footprints", said Xiao, "it is hard to say who made the footprints". That's hundreds of millions of years before dinosaurs started roaming Earth, about 245 million years ago.

The authors can't tell exactly what kind of animal made the tracks, but they can narrow it down to something with pairs of matching legs. 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.

Scientists think they have discovered the 550-million-year-old footprints of a small bug-like animal in the Yangtze Gorges area of China. This sea-dwelling animal had paired appendages that raised its body above the ocean floor, the footprints left behind by its multiple feet suggest.

Prior to this discovery, it was suspected that animals with legs first appeared during this period, but no evidence had ever been found. Take that, rest of the pre-Cambrian life forms!

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Professor Shuhai Xiao, a geobiologist at Virginia Tech University, told The Guardian: "Animals use their appendages to move around, to build their homes, to fight, to feed, and sometimes to help mate".

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

"The trackways appear to be connected to burrows, suggesting that the animals may have periodically dug into sediments and microbial mats, perhaps to mine oxygen and food".

This is a sign of "complex behavior involving both walking and burrowing", the team argues in the paper.

Trackways and burrows excavated in situ from the Ediacaran Dengying Formation.


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