World's oldest known animal identified

Researchers solved the mystery of the Dickinsonia fossil and have identified the oval-shaped organism as the oldest animal in the world.

Posted: Sep 22, 2018 11:50 AM
Updated: Sep 22, 2018 11:54 AM

The oldest known animal in the geological record has been identified, in a discovery that scientists are calling "the Holy Grail of palaeontology."

Fat molecules discovered on the fossil of a mysterious creature called Dickinsonia have confirmed that that it lived 558 million years ago, making it the earliest known member of the animal kingdom.

The findings place its existence 20 million years before the Cambrian Explosion event, when major animals began appearing on the fossil record.

The fossil was first discovered by Australian scientists on a remote Russian cliff face by the White Sea in 1947 and the study, published Friday, brings to an end a decades-long debate to identify what it was.

"The fossil fat molecules that we've found prove that animals were large and abundant 558 million years ago, millions of years earlier than previously thought," said Jochen Brocks, part of the team from the Australian National University (ANU) that led the research.

The symmetrical, oval-shaped organism grew up to around 1.4 meters in length and had rib-like features across its body.

Its fossil was so well preserved that scientists found cholesterol, which they have called "the hallmark" of animal life.

"Scientists have been fighting for more than 75 years over what Dickinsonia and other bizarre fossils of the Ediacaran Biota were: giant single-celled amoeba, lichen, failed experiments of evolution or the earliest animals on Earth," Brocks said.

"The fossil fat now confirms Dickinsonia as the oldest known animal fossil."

New approach leads to breakthrough

Scientists had been puzzled by the fossil for so long because the rocks containing the fossils had been weathered by heat and pressure, according to ANU.

But the team made the groundbreaking discovery after extracting molecules from inside the fossil, rather than studying its structure as scientists usually do.

"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 organic matter still intact," said Ilya Bobrovskiy, the paper's lead author.

"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," he added.

Dickinsonia was found to contain a "striking abundance" of cholesterol -- 93%, compared to levels of just 10.6% and 11.9% found in the deposits immediately above and below the fossil.

The team worked alongside researchers from the Russian Academy of Science, as well as the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry and the University of Bremen, both in Germany.

Earlier this year, scientists discovered the oldest known human fossil outside Africa, dating it between 177,000 and 194,000 years old.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 177134

Reported Deaths: 2467
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah35310570
Washington23704229
Marion20393299
Clackamas15557204
Lane11802144
Jackson10077129
Umatilla800083
Deschutes731272
Linn422263
Yamhill413675
Klamath357159
Polk348452
Malheur343358
Josephine310062
Douglas306566
Benton277719
Jefferson207732
Coos198631
Columbia156126
Union141824
Lincoln130520
Wasco130428
Hood River113529
Morrow108415
Clatsop9078
Crook89519
Baker86714
Curry6049
Tillamook5883
Grant4304
Lake4177
Harney3156
Wallowa1585
Gilliam571
Sherman571
Wheeler261
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3725088

Reported Deaths: 61193
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles122999823702
Riverside2976314547
San Bernardino2951314569
San Diego2756313681
Orange2692584902
Santa Clara1173792019
Kern1080611333
Sacramento1017871651
Fresno1007681650
Alameda856521477
Ventura803601002
San Joaquin717351334
Contra Costa67157782
Stanislaus606491035
Tulare49443831
Monterey43301364
San Mateo41251560
San Francisco36117529
Santa Barbara33926445
Solano32086243
Merced31289453
Sonoma29734312
Imperial28024719
Kings22781245
Placer21957283
San Luis Obispo20991257
Madera16301240
Santa Cruz15719204
Marin13868227
Yolo13581200
Shasta11747219
Butte11619196
El Dorado9797109
Napa971579
Sutter9299109
Yuba612744
San Benito598863
Lassen567924
Tehama544556
Nevada448975
Tuolumne408664
Mendocino399647
Humboldt365938
Amador363146
Lake341843
Glenn235925
Colusa220416
Calaveras206252
Siskiyou196521
Inyo141838
Del Norte12907
Mono12744
Plumas6936
Modoc4904
Mariposa4297
Trinity3985
Sierra1100
Alpine880
Unassigned470
Medford
Partly Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 44°
Brookings
Cloudy
45° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 45°
Medford
Partly Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 44°
Medford
Partly Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 44°
Klamath Falls
Clear
30° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 30°
Warm and windy Thursday
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events

Latest Video

Image

Wednesday, April 21st Evening Weather

Image

Wednesday, April 21 afternoon weather

Image

Tuesday, April 20th Evening Weather

Image

Tuesday, April 20 Morning Weather

Image

Monday, April 19th Evening Weather

Image

Sunday, April 18th Overnight Weather

Image

Raiders sweep No. 23 College of Idaho, extend win streak to 13

Image

Saturday, April 17 evening weather

Image

Saturday, April 17 morning weather

Image

New Southern Oregon Speedway promotors in dash to prepare track