If you were wondering which is the earliest footprint of animals on Earth, then an international team of scientists can show you the evidence. They found tracks in mud which were made 551 million years ago in southern China, in the Yangtze Gorges, by the Yangtze River.
Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology and Virginia Tech have teamed together to find the prints and analyze them. They have published their findings in the journal Science Advances on June 6.
The tracks are from the Ediacaran Period, making them the first prints left by animals from that period. Most of the Ediacaran fossils are tubes with soft bodies and biota (frond-shaped organisms). That period is so ancient that many rocks have crumbled and destroyed evidence of animal print. But scientists knew where to look for them since South China the most important Ediacaran fossil site in the world.
A Burrowing Animal We’ll Never Actually Discover
The Ediacaran Period happened before the Cambrian Explosion, which is when life on Earth began to increase and diversified.
According to the authors of the study, the newly discovered footprints show “bilaterian animals with paired appendages that raised the animal body above the water-sediment interface.”
The tracks of life show that the animal burrowed its way into sediments and microbial mats, probably looking for food or oxygen, which was very rare before the Cambrian explosion.
Unfortunately, the team hasn’t got a complete fossil record, and they cannot 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.
Scientists are quite frustrated because the Ediacaran Period doesn’t show much evidence of fossils, so they must reverse engineer them to understand their composition.
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere