An worldwide team of scientists found that the fossil of an animal appendage dates back to the Ediacaran period, sometime between 541 and 635 million years ago. Similar burrows around the same age left by tiny worm-like creature have previously been found in Brazil, but the Chinese fossils suggest the presence of more complex organisms. Utah's Red Fleet State Park recently reported that tourists have been ripping up 200-million-year-old dinosaur tracks and tossing them into a reservoir nearby. The body fossils of the animals that made these traces, however, have not yet been found.
This places them perhaps even 10 million years before the "Cambrian Explosion" (roughly 541 million years ago), the moment in time which sparked the incredible evolution of life that led to the wonderful diversity of species that we see today.
However, the fossil record of animal appendages confirms that their evolutionary ancestry was rooted in the Ediacaran Period, the researchers noted. The newfound trace fossils are some of the earliest known evidence for animal appendages on record.
These animals are long gone and extinct, but they've made their mark on ancient rocks, making it possible for scientists to piece together the world back then.
Because the tracks are older than any known fossil of a legged animal, they are crucial for understanding how early animals evolved during the infant days of life on earth.
For comparison, non-bilateral animals include sponges, corals, jellyfish, and anemones.
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An incredibly rare finding: researchers have found the tracks from a rare animal dating 551 million years ago, somewhere in the mountainous Yangtze Gorges, in southern China.
"We do not know exactly what animals made these footprints, other than that the animals must have been bilaterally symmetric because they had paired appendages", study co-author Shuhai Xiao, a geobiologist from Virginia Tech, told the Independent.
The odd-looking prehistoric trackways show two rows of imprints that resemble a series of repeated footprints, the researchers said.
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.
Chinese team researched about it and it appeared in Science Advances Journal. But what about Earth - when did animals first leave footprints here?