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World’s Oldest Known Animal Identified

The world’s oldest animal has been identified, and apparently, scientists weren’t even aware that the creature existed. This week, news broke that the oldest known animal to have ever lived on this planet was identified, and it lived 558 million years ago.

The fossilized life form was actually found back in 1947 by Australian scientists in a remote part of The White Sea, which is in Russia. Jochen Brocks, a researcher from Australian National University explained, “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.”

The findings are groundbreaking because the lifespan of the animal occurred at least twenty million years before the Cambrian explosion of animal life, when creatures were first thought to be around. This time period was about five hundred and forty million years ago, and the existence of this fossilized animal adds another twenty years to that timeline.

The fossil itself is of an oval-sized lifeform, of genus Dickinsonia, is actually part of an ancient group of organisms called Ediacarans. The fossil has been studied for years, and scientists were recently able to link ancient cholesterol, or in this case, the remains of organic matter from more recent Edicarans, to confirm this fossiled creature was, in fact, an animal.

PhD student Ilya Bobrovskiy was the scientist who initially found the fossils, in the steep cliffside by the White Sea and is the lead author of the research paper on the subject. She took a helicopter to the area and then suspended herself over the cliffside with ropes, so she could access the area where she believed the fossils were located.

She then dug out blocks of sandstone and had to wash the sandstone away slowly to eventually discover the fossils. However, this is not the first finding that suggests that animal life existed earlier than previously thought. It simply helps support the idea that the question of when animal life on Earth started is still a mystery.