Oldest animal ever discovered by scientists
Chinese scientists find a 600-million-year-old creature.
- Researchers in China find fossils of a creature that lived 600 million years ago.
- This creature resembles a modern-day comb jelly.
- If confirmed, these would be the oldest animal fossils discovered.
When we think of prehistoric animals, giant creatures like dinosaurs tend to come to mind. But what was the oldest animal that ever existed? Chinese scientists say it was a lowly blob that lived about 600 million years ago.
In fact, as reported by Graham Lawton in New Scientist, the creature that was recently discovered doesn't even have a name yet. The previous oldest known animal was a 541-million-year-old weird blob-like organism called Dickinsonia, which belonged to the extinct Ediacarans. The new creature, however, appears to come from the group of animals that are still with us today – comb jellies.
The organism was discovered by Zhenbing She of the China University of Geosciences, Wuhan. He revealed his findings at a meeting of the Geological Society of London in London in January 2019, stating that "The origin and earliest evolution of animals is a fascinating question that has puzzled scientists for many decades."
The sample containing the fossils of the ancient jellies came from a drill core derived from the Doushantuo Formation in southern China, which has been a source of well-preserved fossils that go back as far as 631 million years ago. The fossils are usually tiny like an algal cell, visible only through a microscope.
The creature found by She, however, can be seen with the naked eye, measuring about 0.7 millimeters. It also has an unmistakable shape of a jelly, with further analysis under a microscope showing tentacles, nerve cells, muscle tissue, and other structures pointing to the phylum Ctenophora. That's the category including comb jellies. More precisely, the evidence displays similarities to the genus Pleurobrachia, known as sea gooseberries.
Another clue pointing to comb jellies as the modern equivalent of the millions-year-old organism? Hair-like cilia clusters that are used for swimming.
Fun fact about comb jellies: These carnivores have a remarkable digestive system that includes a pass-through gut that connects their mouth and anus. Their feed consists of small sea creatures, a trait they likely share with their ancient cousins, who seemed to have been part of an elaborate ecosystem. Still, so much remains to be discovered, asserts She, adding in an interview with New Scientist,"... there are many other creatures in the deposit, but we are not sure what they are."
While the study has not been peer-reviewed, it has been read by some scientists, with a somewhat split decision. A few detractors, like Maoyan Zhu of Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, think the found fossils could be artifacts or maybe even bacterial contamination.
Sea gooseberry comb jellies feeding!
- Discovery of the Oldest Homo Sapiens Ever Might Rewrite Human ... ›
- New fossils reveal first known swimming dinosaur ›
The pandemic reminds us that our higher education system, with all its flaws, remains a key part of our strategic reserve.
- America's higher education system is under great scrutiny as it adapts to a remote-learning world. These criticisms will only make higher ed more innovative.
- While there are flaws in the system and great challenges ahead, higher education has adapted quickly to allow students to continue learning. John Katzman, CEO of online learning organization Noodle Partners, believes this is cause for optimism not negativity.
- Universities are pillars of scientific research on the COVID-19 frontlines, they bring facts in times of uncertainty and fake news, and, in a bad economy, education is a personal floatation device.
Meteorologists propose a stunning new explanation for the mysterious events in the Bermuda Triangle.
One of life's great mysteries, the Bermuda Triangle might have finally found an explanation. This strange region, that lies in the North Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda, Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico, has been the presumed cause of dozens and dozens of mind-boggling disappearances of ships and planes.
A debate is raging inside and outside of churches.
- Over 1,200 pastors in California claim they're opening their churches this week against state orders.
- While church leaders demand independence from governmental oversight, 9,000 Catholic churches have received small business loans.
- A number of re-opened churches shut back down after members and clergy became infected with the novel coronavirus.
An MIT system uses wireless signals to measure in-home appliance usage to better understand health tendencies.
For many of us, our microwaves and dishwashers aren't the first thing that come to mind when trying to glean health information, beyond that we should (maybe) lay off the Hot Pockets and empty the dishes in a timely way.