Oldest 'footprints' found in China

Oldest 'footprints' found in China”

While scientists are not sure exactly which beast made the footprints, the fossils have been estimated to be around 551 million years old.

But what about Earth - when did animals first leave footprints here?

According to the authors of the study, the newly discovered footprints show "bilaterian animals with paired appendages that raised the animal body above the water-sediment interface".

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

The identity of the creature that made the 546-million-year-old footprints is still unknown but reports claimed that it came from the period when the earliest animals are thought to have evolved.

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.

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

The paleontological team found two rows of footprints that represent not only the earliest footprints ever found but also the earliest known record of an animal with legs.

Still, this discovery means that paleontologists will have to revise their vision of how life developed in Earth's primordial oceans.

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. In fact, the China discovery represents one of the earliest known records of animals evolving appendages. "Late Ediacaran trackways produced by bilaterian animals with paired appendages".

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.

Still, due to the proximity of the track marks to fossilised burrows discovered nearby, the researchers hypothesise the creature may have exhibited "complex behaviour", such as periodically digging into sediments to mine oxygen and food among its riverbed habitat. 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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