Tech UPTechnologyThey discover the remains of the oldest animal on...

They discover the remains of the oldest animal on Earth

An Australian National University (ANU) doctoral student, Ilya Bobrovskiy, discovered an incredibly well-preserved fossil of an enigmatic organism called Dickinsonia . The fossil was found in a remote area near the White Sea in northwestern Russia. The good state of conservation of the fossil has allowed scientists to find fat molecules, a hallmark of animal life. Dickinsonia lived on Earth 558 million years ago.

The creature grew to 1.4 meters in length and was oval in shape with rib-shaped segments running through its body and was part of the Ediacaran Period Biota that lived on Earth 20 million years before the ‘Cambrian explosion’ of animal life.

The “Cambrian explosion” took place when complex animals and other macroscopic organisms, such as mollusks, worms, arthropods, and sponges, began to dominate the fossil record.

The fossil fat molecules that we have found show that animals were large and abundant 558 million years ago, millions of years earlier than previously thought, ” said Jochen Brocks, leader of the work publishing the journal Science.

The ‘Holy Grail’ of paleontology

“Scientists have been researching Dickinsonia and other strange fossils from the Ediacara biota for over 75 years. Now, fossil fat confirms Dickinsonia as
the oldest known animal fossil , solving a decades-long mystery that has been, without a place. undoubtedly the Holy Grail of paleontology, “continues Brocks.

The team developed a new approach to studying the Dickinsonia fossils, which hold the key between the old world dominated by bacteria and the world of larger animals that emerged 540 million years ago during the ‘Cambrian explosion’.

“The problem we had to overcome was finding Dickinsonia fossils that retained some organic matter ,” Bobrovskiy clarified. “Most of the rocks that contain these fossils, like those in the Ediacara Hills in Australia, have endured a lot of heat, a lot of pressure, and have worn away, and it is the rocks that paleontologists studied for many decades, which explains why they were stuck on Dickinsonia’s true identity. “

Paleontologists normally study the structure of fossils, but Bobrovskiy extracted and analyzed the molecules inside the Dickinsonia fossil found in these ancient rocks in Russia to achieve his discovery.

The details of the find

“I took a helicopter to get to this remote part of the world, home to bears and mosquitoes, where I was able to find Dickinsonia fossils with intact organic matter,” says Bobrovskiy as he recalls his trip.

“These fossils were located in the middle of the cliffs of the White Sea, which are between 60 and 100 meters high. I had to hang from the edge of a cliff with ropes and excavate huge blocks of sandstone, throw them, wash the sandstone and repeat this process until I found the fossils I was looking for. “

“When Ilya showed me the results, I just couldn’t believe it . But I also immediately understood their importance,” says Professor Brocks.

As Lao Tzu said, ‘perseverance is the basis of all actions’.

Reference: I. Bobrovskiy el al., “Ancient steroids establish the Ediacaran fossil Dickinsonia as one of the earliest animals,” Science (2018).… 1126 / science.aat7228

RE Summons el al., “Chemical clues to the earliest animal fossils,” Science (2018).… 1126 / science.aau9710

Image credit: The Australian National University (ANU)

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