The Earliest Known Animal Journey on Earth

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The Earliest Known Animal Journey on Earth

 

Researchers have discovered ancient animal trail fossils in the Yiling district of China. The creature was named Yilingia spiciformis — "Yilingia.” Aside from that, they found 34 other body fossils belonging to the same species. The worm’s 550 million-year-old trail showed that it took a trip along the muddy ocean floor and died. However, this was not any ordinary stroll.

 

Photo Credits: Global News

 

According to Live Science, a science news website that features groundbreaking developments in science, space, technology, health, the environment, our culture and history, the researchers found out that the worm had a long, thin body spanning up to 4 inches long and about 1 inch wide made up of about 50 symmetrical segments. In a recently published study in the journal Nature, it was reported that the fossil may represent the earliest known evidence of an animal walking on Earth's surface. This can prove that animals have been mobile since at least the Ediacaran period which is 635 million to 539 million years ago. 

 

Photo Credits: Global News

 

In a statement, Rachel Wood, a geosciences professor at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, said, "We now have evidence that segmented animals were present and had gained an ability to move across the seafloor before the Cambrian. More notably, we can tie the actual trace-maker to the trace." 

According to the researchers, the worm dwelled on the muddy ocean floor and left trails up to 23 inches (58 cm) long. "Mobility made it possible for animals to make an unmistakable footprint on Earth, both literally and metaphorically. [Bilateral] animals and particularly humans are movers and shakers on Earth. Their ability to shape the face of the planet is ultimately tied to the origin of animal motility,” said study co-author Shuhai Xiao, a professor of geosciences with the Virginia Tech College of Science.

 

Photo Credits: The New York Times

 

However, the researchers are not sure where Yilingia should be placed in the animal family tree. They suspect that it’s related to annelids (segmented worms) or arthropods (tiny invertebrates that include crustaceans and millipedes). 

 

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