An international team of researchers has succeeded in discovering the “food habits” of Earth’s oldest animals, which lived more than 550 million years ago.
The object that baffled scientists
- In the research, published in the journal Current Biology, scientists analyzed fossils of the Ediacaran animal, which lived between 538.8 million and 635 million years ago.
- This study revealed the first evidence of the food that this creature consumed.
- The organisms known as “Ediacarans” have been a mystery to scientists for a long time, because they look like fossilized plants at the bottom of the seas or oceans, up to two meters long, which made it difficult to determine whether they belong to fungi, algae, or a completely different strain.
- Paleontologists believe that these creatures were animals, especially since some of them could move.
“Kimberella and the Oldest Meal”
The fossil of the slug-like creature known as Kimberella contained compounds indicating that it ate algae and bacteria from the ocean floor.
What does this discovery mean?.. The answer lies in the knowledge that the strange creature had a mouth and an intestine, and digested food in the same way as some modern invertebrates, according to what the British newspaper “The Guardian” explained.
Explanations from “The World”
Study co-author, from the Australian National University, Professor Jochen Brooks, revealed that:
- “The fossils from the Ediacaran period constitute some of the most important fossils ever in terms of evolution, because they are the first time that life became large. They are the oldest macrofossils that can be seen with the eye.”
- “Kimberella was an advanced animal for its time, because it has a very recent alimentary canal, which we would compare to more primitive animals.”
- “Sponges, corals and jellyfish for example, they don’t have a normal gut that runs through their whole body, but we can see that Kimberla’s gut was able to actively absorb one lipoprotein molecule, and reject other molecules that it didn’t want.”
An important comparison made by scientists to confirm that “Kimberella” is different from other organisms of that period, revealed:
- When analyzing the fossils of another animal dubbed “Dickinsonia,” the team found that this creature “was less advanced, and without a mouth or gut.”
- Brooks described Dickinsonia as “like a ribbed bath mat lying at the bottom of the sea,” noting that it “grew to a length of 1.4 meters, and absorbed food through its skin.”
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