World's oldest footprints found in China

An worldwide team of scientists has reported the discovery of oldest footprints ever found on Earth, which was left behind by a mysterious animal that roamed our planet sometime between 541 and 551 million years ago - way before many known animals, including dinosaurs, thrived and became extinct.

Because the tracks are older than any known fossil of a legged animal, they are crucial for understanding how early animals evolved during the infant days of life on earth.

The oldest footprints left by an animal have been recently uncovered in southern China.

In the end, without a complete fossil record, we can not make any presumptions regarding the needs or the habits of the animal.

This means that the symmetrical creature appeared before the Cambrian Period, Chen noted. The era was so long ago that many rocks from the time period have naturally disappeared, and the Yangtze area is one of the very few in the world where such well-preserved fossils can be found today. The body fossils of this animal have not been found and might not ever be discovered. They published their findings Wednesday in the journal Science Advances. The rocks they come from are dated to between 551 million and 541 million years old.

Trackways and burrows excavated in situ from the Ediacaran Dengying Formation.

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Both the footprints and the borrows are known as "trace fossils", a term that refers to fossilized remnants that animals leave behind, such as fossilized poop, rather than fossils of the animals themselves. There has always been an assumption that they have appeared and radiated unexpectedly in the Cambrian Explosion that took place around 541-510 million years ago.

'At least three living groups of animals have paired appendages (represented by arthropods such as bumble bees, annelids such as bristle worms, and tetrapods such as humans)', said Dr Chen.

The odd-looking prehistoric trackways show two rows of imprints that resemble a series of repeated footprints, the researchers said.

He also said that arthropods and annelids or their ancestors are possible.

It also seems that the tracks are somehow connected to the burrows, suggesting that whichever animal this might have been, they had a tendency of digging into sediments and microbial mats, most probably in order to search for food and oxygen. Well, the team has it narrowed down to a bilaterian animal - a creature with bilateral symmetry, that has a head at one end and the back end at the other, as well as a symmetrical right and left side, Live Science explains.

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