Sunday, 24 June, 2018

These 550-Million-Year-Old Footprints Could Be The Oldest Ever Discovered

Sandra Phillips | 08 June, 2018, 22:23

Scientists have found fossilised footprints dating from 551 million years ago in China, left in mud by an unknown bug.

Previously, it was believed animals with pairs of legs capable of leaving such footprints first appeared during the "Cambrian Explosion" about 541 to 510 million years ago.

The research by a Chinese team appears in Science Advances journal.

If you were wondering which is the earliest footprint of animals on Earth, then an worldwide team of scientists can show you the evidence.

While bilaterian animals - including arthropods and annelids - were suspected to have first stretched their innovative legs prior to the Cambrian explosion, in what's called the Ediacaran Period, before now there was no evidence for it in the fossil record.

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 tracks are actually older than any fossil of a creature with legs, so scientists are puzzled by what created the footprints. The era was so long ago that many rocks from the time period have naturally disappeared, and the Yangtze area is one of the very few in the world where such well-preserved fossils can be found today.

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'The footprints are organised in two parallel rows, as expected if they were made by animals with paired appendages.

Unfortunately, the team hasn't got a complete fossil record, and they can not assess the habits or needs of the animal that left those 'footprints.' They didn't find the body fossils of the animal, and they might never find it, as preservation is highly unlikely after so much time.

The team from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Virginia Tech in the U.S. discovered two rows of imprints that are arranged in a series or repeated groups in irregular trackways and burrows.

"This is considered the earliest animal fossil footprint record", the researchers wrote in the report.

The trackways are the earliest discovered indication of when animals evolved appendages.

'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)', said Dr Chen. It is possible that such remains were never preserved.

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