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Fat from 558 million years ago reveals earliest known animal

22 Sep 2018, 19:00 UTC
Fat from 558 million years ago reveals earliest known animal
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Scientists from The Australian National University (ANU) and overseas have discovered molecules of fat in an ancient fossil to reveal the earliest confirmed animal in the geological record that lived on Earth 558 million years ago. The strange creature called Dickinsonia, which grew up to 1.4 metres in length and was oval shaped with rib-like segments running along its body, was part of the Ediacara Biota that lived on Earth 20 million years prior to the ‘Cambrian explosion‘ of modern animal life. ANU PhD scholar Ilya Bobrovskiy discovered a Dickinsonia fossil so well preserved in a remote area near the White Sea in the northwest of Russia that the tissue still contained molecules of cholesterol, a type of fat that is the hallmark of animal life. Lead senior researcher Associate Professor Jochen Brocks said the ‘Cambrian explosion’ was when complex animals and other macroscopic organisms – such as molluscs, worms, arthropods and sponges – began to dominate the fossil record. “The fossil fat molecules that we’ve found prove that animals were large and abundant 558 million years ago, millions of years earlier than previously thought,” said Associate Professor Jochen Brocks from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences. “Scientists have ...

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