Fossil Find

October 5, 2018
ANCIENT ANIMAL A Dickinsonia fossil from the Precambrian period
DE AGOSTINI PICTURE LIBRARY—GETTY IMAGES

Scientists have found that a mysterious type of 500 million–year-old fossil, found in Australia and Russia, was formed by an animal. It was one of the earliest creatures on Earth.

The first fossil of this kind was described in 1947. The organism that formed it was dubbed Dickinsonia. But scientists never knew what the organism was.

On September 20, a team of researchers announced findings proving Dickinsonia was an animal. They studied tiny molecules inside the fossils. Among other things, they found a carbon-carrying substance that is produced by animals.

Jochen Brocks is one of the study’s authors. He told the AP that scientists still don’t know what Dickinsonia looked like. “We do know it was soft and flexible,” he said. “Maybe like a slug, but less watery than a jellyfish.”