Monday, 18 June, 2018

These Are The Oldest Animal Footprints Ever Discovered on Our Planet

World's oldest footprints from 550,000,000 years ago discovered in south China 550 million-year old footprints and burrows discovered in the Yangtze Gorges area of South China
Cary Marshall | 08 June, 2018, 15:25

The earliest animal footprints ever left on our planet were discovered in China, in an old fossil site predating the 'Cambrian Explosion'.

An worldwide 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".

They are often assumed to have appeared and radiated suddenly during the "Cambrian Explosion" about 541-510 million years ago, although it has always been suspected that their evolutionary ancestry was rooted in the Ediacaran Period.

Researchers found the tiny marks by tilting rocks at different angles so they caught light from the sun.

"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.

Tampa: The earliest known footprints left by an animal on Earth, dating back some 541 million years, have been uncovered in China, a study said Wednesday. "The new fossils are probably up to 10 million years older". "They consist of two rows of imprints arranged in poorly organized series or repeated groups", the researchers wrote in their paper.

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"Previously identified footprints are between 540 and 530 million years old".

Researchers do not know what animals made the footprints but have interpreted the two parallel rows of dots as rows of tracks.

While science has previously recorded that bilaterian animals, such as arthropods and annelid worms, first emerged during the "Cambrian Explosion" (541 to 510 million years ago), this finding proves that these creatures actually evolved earlier, confirming the suspicion shared by some researchers.

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

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.

The tracks could be from 10 million years before the Cambrian Explosion, a sudden explosion in biodiversity almost half a billion years ago. That's hundreds of millions of years before dinosaurs started roaming Earth, about 245 million years ago.

Over the following 70 or 80 million years, the rate of evolution accelerated and the diversity of life began to resemble that of today.

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