Earliest animal footprints found in China

Earliest animal footprints found in China

This means that they lived during the Ediacaran Period, which lasted from 635 to 541 million years ago.

Scientists discovered the oldest footprint known so far in an ancient seafloor in China.

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

This image courtesy of Zhe Chen and Shuhai Xiao and released by Virginia Tech University on June 6, 2018, shows, the earliest known footprints left by an animal on Earth uncovered in China, and date back some 541 million years ago, a study said June 6.

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.

Researchers do not know what animals made the footprints but have interpreted the two parallel rows of dots as rows of tracks. However, without a fossil record, it's hard to make any solid assumptions about the creature.

"Together, these trackways and burrows mark the arrival of a new era characterized by an increasing geobiological footprint of bilaterian animals", the researchers point out.

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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 USA and the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology (NIGP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Dozen of fossils were discovered in an Ediacaran Period Dengying Formation limestone strata, which dates from between 551m and 541m years ago, in the Three Gorges area of Yi Chang city.

The remarkable discovery reveals how creatures with paired legs were scuttling around over 100million years earlier than previously thought.

Bilaterian animals (like annelids and arthropods) have appendages that are paired. Today, these creatures are spread throughout the Earth and are among the most diverse forms of animal life on the planet, notes the report.

The animal appears to have paused from time to time, since the trackways seem to be connected to burrows that may have been dug into the sediment, perhaps to obtain food.

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

The trackways are the earliest discovered indication of when animals evolved appendages. No fossils has been found in the fossil record, and the odds are it never will be found - it was a stroke of luck that the tracks were even preserved.

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