Evolution is getting a rethink after scientists take a closer look at Earth's first animals

phys.org | 8/10/2018 | Staff
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When did animals originate? In research published in the journal Palaeontology, we show that this question is answered by Cambrian period fossils of a frond-like sea creature called Stromatoveris psygmoglena.

The Ediacaran Period lasted from 635 to 542m years ago. This era is key to understanding animal origins because it occurred just before the "Cambrian explosion" of 541m years ago, when many of the animal groups living today first appeared in the fossil record.

Fossils - Ediacaran - Period - Century - Forms

Yet when large fossils from the Ediacaran Period were first identified during the 20th century they included unique frond-like forms, which were not quite like any living animal. This prompted one of the greatest debates still raging in evolution. What exactly were these enigmatic fossils, often called the Ediacaran biota?

By comparing members of the Ediacaran biota to a range of other groups in a computer analysis of evolutionary relationships, we found that Stromatoveris psygmoglena provides a crucial link between the older period and the animals which appeared in startling number and diversity during the Cambrian period.

Fossils - Stromatoveris - Psygmoglena - Place - World

Fossils of Stromatoveris psygmoglena are found in only one place in the world: Chengjiang county, China. This region is known for exceptionally well-preserved Cambrian fossils from 518m years ago.

While the fossil record most often preserves only hard shells or bones, some special sites like Chengjiang preserve the remains of soft-bodied animals, such as Stromatoveris psygmoglena. Originally described in 2006 from eight known specimens, we examined over 200 new fossils of the organism that have since been discovered by researchers from Northwest University, China, and dated to the Cambrian period.

Way - Fossils - Ediacaran - Period - Mysteries

The way in which fossils of the Ediacaran Period were preserved has been another of their mysteries. These fossils often show signs of bending, twisting and tearing, suggesting that they preserve soft-bodied organisms without hard parts. However, there is rarely anything left of the soft...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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