First animal footprints found

A team of international researchers have reported the discovery of fossil footprints that are considered to be the earliest animal footprint recorded.

In the study published in Science advances, researchers describe these tracks of footprints to belong to bilaterian animals.  This group of animals have paired appendages and are the most diverse group of animals on Earth both past and present.

The tracks and burrows were found in China and have been dated back to the Ediacaran Period around 635-541 million years ago.  It was previously believed that bilaterian animal populations exploded during the Cambrian Period around 541-510 million years ago.

Fossilised trackways found in China (Image credit: NIGP)

The tracks appear to connect to burrows, which could mean these small prehistoric animals periodically, dug into the ground for oxygen or food.  The bodies of these burrowing beasts have not been found and may have never been naturally preserved.

This new information, however, allows scientists to better under the timeline for animal evolution and it’s origins.

It’s one small step for bilaterians, one giant step for animal-kind.

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