Another history-changing discovery has been made by scientists.
© A. El Albani / IC2MP / CNRS-Université de Poitiers
Researchers have uncovered evidence of ‘moving organisms’ on Earth dating back staggering 2.1 billion years.
The sensational discovery was made in 2.1-billion-year-old black shale from a quarry in Gabon.
(Curiously, Gabon is also home to a 2-Billion-Year-Old Natural Nuclear Reactor, the only one on Earth discovered to date).
As explained by researchers, the traces embedded in black shale (exquisitely preserved fossils of small tubular structures) were left behind by unknown organisms moving through soft mud, in search for food.
The organisms are believed to have lived in a relatively shallow ecosystem, at a time when our plant was oxygen-rich and boasted necessary conditions to allow simple cellular life to evolve into more complex organisms.
Life on Earth is thought to have come into existence in Earth’s oceans around 4 billion years ago.
However, these early forms of life lacked ‘motility’ the ability to move independently.
The recently analyzed fossils from Gabon have proven to be 1.5 billion years older than previous evidence of the ‘oldest’ evidence of motility.
In fact, researchers say that Gabonese shale deposits have yielded unprecedented fossils, also containing what are considered the oldest-known multicellular organisms.
“What matters here is their astonishing complexity and diversity in shape and size, and likely in terms of metabolic, developmental and behavioral patterns, including the just-discovered earliest evidence of motility, at least for certain among them,” explained paleobiogeochemist and sedimentologist Abderrazak El Albani of the University of Poitiers in France.
And even though the new discovery sheds light on a time when the first life forms evolved to move around on their own, the identity of these organisms remains an enigma, as the fossils did not include the organisms that left the ‘footprints’ behind.
It is believed that the tubular structures, around 170 millimeters long, were crafted by organic matter left behind by the unknown organisms as they moved through the mid.
One theory suggests that the structures were made by either a multicellular organism or an aggregation of single-celled organisms.
“Life during the so-called Paleoproterozoic Era, 2.5 to 1.6 billion years ago, was not only bacterial, but more complex organisms had emerged at some point, likely only during some phases and under certain environmental circumstances,” El Albani added.
The discovery is striking because, in comparison, the first vertebrates on Earth are thought to have appeared some 525 million years ago. Dinosaurs, on the other hand, about 230 million years ago and Homo sapiens as recent as 300,000 years ago.