Scientists say world's oldest footprints belonged to tiny animals

This means that they lived during the Ediacaran Period, which lasted from 635 to 541 million years ago.

Scientists announced Wednesday that they have discovered the oldest known footprints of an animal.

"We explicitly stated in the paper that we do not know exactly what animals made these footprints, other than that the animals must have been bilaterally symmetric because they had paired appendages", Xiao added.

For comparison, non-bilateral animals include sponges, corals, jellyfish, and anemones.

The scientists claim that the current findings bore a resemblance with the fossil prints that date back to the period between four hundred and nineteen to three hundred and fifty-eight million years ago.

Life during the Ediacaran was characterized by algae, lichens, giant protozoans, worms, and various bacteria, but there's still a lot that paleontologists don't know about it.

The trackways' characteristics indicate that a bilaterian animal - that is, a creature with bilateral symmetry that has a head at one end, a back end at the other, and a symmetrical right and left side - made the tracks.

Xiao's team found the footprints while tilting rock slabs at different angles.

The tracks are actually older than any fossil of a creature with legs, so scientists are puzzled by what created the footprints.

The Cambrian Period marks the time in the fossil record when most major groups of animals first appeared.

"Previously identified footprints are between 540 and 530 million years old", Dr Zhe Chen from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology told MailOnline.

An global team of scientists, including researchers from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, and Virginia Tech in the United States, conducted the study.

It was a commonly held belief in scientific circles that animals with limbs and jointed appendages did not appear and diversify till the Cambrian Explosion that took place around 541 to 510 million years ago. The team is involved in researching about the tracks and burrows found in the Denying Formation.

The trackways were also connected to the burrows which just strengthened the hypothesis that they were left by animals who dug burrows in the sediment for food.

"Arthropods and annelids, or their ancestors, are possibilities". The fossil of the animal has not been found or maybe it never got preserved.

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