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According to New Scientist (This article and its images were originally posted on New Scientist September 20, 2018 at 02:24PM.)
A strange soft-bodied sea creature that lived over half a billion years ago may have been the first animal species on Earth, fossil evidence suggests.
The first large complex organisms – known as the Ediacarans – appear in the fossil record about 570 million years ago, just before the Cambrian explosion of modern animal life. Their alien body shapes have created confusion over whether they were primitive animals, other complex lifeforms like lichen or giant amoebas, or failed experiments of evolution.
Now, Jochen Brocks at Australian National University and his colleagues have found fat molecules in 558 million-year-old fossils of Dickinsonia – a type of Ediacaran – that confirms it was an early animal.
The researchers collected the fossils from sandstone cliffs in a remote area of the White Sea region of Russia. The cholesterol-like molecules preserved in them are found in almost all of today’s animals, but have low abundance in other lifeforms like bacteria, lichen and amoebas. “It tells us this creature in fact was our earliest ancestor,” says Brocks.
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