Scientists at Australian National University (ANU) confirmed that the half-billion-year-old blob known as Dickinsonia is one of the Earth’s first animals.
Dickinsonia lived about 500 million years ago in the late Ediacaran period. The creature, which had an oval-like form that could grow up to 1.4 meters in length, had a boring life, spending its entire existence at the bottom of the oceans. However, this half-billion-year-old blob represented a hard puzzle to break for scientists as many have struggled to depict what this creature is.
While, over time, many researchers deemed it as a polychaete, annelid worm, polyp, jellyfish, polyp, xenophyophores protist, early mushroom, or a lichen, the new research made the breakthrough thanks to a new well-preserved Dickinsonia fossil found by Ilya Bobrovsky, an ANU Ph.D., at the White Sea along the northwestern coast of Russia.
As every discovery comes with a sort of sacrifice, this one made no exception.
Scientists identified the half-billion-year-old blob as one of Earth’s first animals thanks to fat molecules
“I took a helicopter to reach this very remote part of the world, home to bears and mosquitoes, where I could find Dickinsonia fossils with the organic matter still intact. These fossils were located in the middle of cliffs of the White Sea that are 60 to 100 meters high. I had to hang over the edge of a cliff on ropes and dig out huge blocks of sandstone, throw them down, wash the sandstone and repeat this process until I found the fossils I was after,” explained Ilya Bobrovsky.
While analyzing the Dickinsonia fossil they found, the researchers discovered that the blob was presenting 30% fat molecules, in particular, cholesterol, which are the defining molecules of animal existence. That represents substantial evidence that animals were already abundant and reasonably massive about 500 million years ago, way before initially thought.
In conclusion, the fat molecules found in Dickinsonia, a half-billion-year-old creatures, prove that this is one of the Earth’s first animals.
Jasmine holds a Master’s in Journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto and writes professionally in a broad variety of genres. She has worked as a senior manager in public relations and communications for major telecommunication companies, and is the former Deputy Director for Media Relations with the Modern Coalition. Jasmine writes primarily in our LGBTTQQIAAP and Science section.