Footprints of 600 Million Years Old Animals Discovered in China

That said, palaeontologists have found slither marks etched onto the surfaces of ancient rock, a hint that worm-like animals were slithering and burrowing so very long ago. "This style of preservation is distinct from other types of trace fossils, for example, tunnels or burrows, or body fossils".

This places them perhaps even 10 million years before the "Cambrian Explosion" (roughly 541 million years ago), the moment in time which sparked the incredible evolution of life that led to the unbelievable diversity of species that we see today.

"The newly found pieces are the oldest existing animal footprint fossils to date", said Chen Zhe, one of the Chinese researchers, before adding that they think the animal is similar to the modern-day shrimp.

While bilaterian animals - including arthropods and annelids - were suspected to have first stretched their innovative legs prior to the Cambrian explosion, in what's called the Ediacaran Period, before now there was no evidence for it in the fossil record. However, without a fossil record, it's hard to make any solid assumptions about the creature.

Multicellular life got its start in the Early Ediacaran Period about 635 million years ago, perhaps buoyed by the melting of "Snowball Earth".

Animals with bilaterally paired appengages are assumed to have appeared during the Cambrian Explosion, but now their ancestry may be traceable to even further back in history.

The fossils, which were found in the Yangtze Gorges area of south China, lie between two rock layers that have been radiocarbon-dated to 551m and 541m years old, meaning the footprints were made sometime between these dates. At the moment, this is believed to be the first footprint ever left by an animal on Earth.

If you were wondering which is the earliest footprint of animals on Earth, then an global team of scientists can show you the evidence.

The study was published online today (June 6) in the journal Science Advances.

They took a close look at the irregular trackways and witnessed two parallel rows of footprints, which appeared to have been arranged in a series or repeated groups.

He also said that arthropods and annelids or their ancestors are possible. "Late Ediacaran trackways produced by bilaterian animals with paired appendages".

Still, due to the proximity of the track marks to fossilised burrows discovered nearby, the researchers hypothesise the creature may have exhibited "complex behaviour", such as periodically digging into sediments to mine oxygen and food among its riverbed habitat.

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