Image The prints were found near the Yangtze Gorges. Credit NIGP
09 June, 2018, 11:29
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. That's hundreds of millions of years before dinosaurs started roaming Earth, about 245 million years ago. But what about Earth - when did animals first leave footprints here?
Sadly, the scientists weren't able to locate the body fossils of the animals that made these traces.
Prior to this discovery, it was suspected that animals with legs first appeared during this period, but no evidence had ever been found.
"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. This means that they lived during the Ediacaran Period, which lasted from 635 to 541 million years ago.
The tracks are actually older than any fossil of a creature with legs, so scientists are puzzled by what created the footprints.
The fossil tracks offer "some of the earliest known evidence for animal appendages and extend the earliest trace fossil record of animals with appendages from the early Cambrian (485 million to 541 million years ago) to the late Ediacaran Period".
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If you were wondering which is the earliest footprint of animals on Earth, then an worldwide team of scientists can show you the evidence.
However, until now, no records of such fossils were ever found. Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, together with colleagues from Virginia Tech in the USA, studied the trackways and burrows that were discovered in a fossil-rich area close to the Yangtze River. New research published this week in Science Advancesreveals the fossilised footprints left by one of these early creatures, and it's considered the oldest known trackway made by a bilaterian creature with paired appendages.
The trackways are somewhat irregular, consisting of two rows of imprints that are arranged in series or repeated groups, according to the study.
It also seems that the tracks are somehow connected to the burrows, suggesting that whichever animal this might have been, they had a tendency of digging into sediments and microbial mats, most probably in order to search for food and oxygen.
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