Working to reveal the secrets of the earliest animals

2020-12-08

About 580 million years ago, complex life emerged and the first animals saw the light of day. How did they live?

Ben Slater
Ben Slater, a palaeontologist at the Department of Earth Sciences at Uppsala University, studies microscopic fragments of organisms that lived just before the Cambrian explosion. Photograph: Johan Wahlgren

About 580 million years ago, something happened that would change Earth forever. Complex life emerged and the first animals saw the light of day. What were these creatures? And how did they live? This is what Ben Slater, a palaeontologist at Uppsala University, wants to find out using the latest techniques.

Today, we know very little about the first animals or how they evolved. The fossil evidence is and not very easy to interpret. But in some places on Earth that have nearly 580 million-year-old rocks, there are traces from very early complex, multicell, soft tissue animals. Some resemble jellyfish or sea pens, and some are like nothing we have ever seen.  These strange fossils are usually called Ediacaran biota after the geological period known as the Ediacaran Period (635–541 million years ago) during which they lived.

At this time, Earth looked much different from today. For example, the continents were concentrated south of the equator.

Read the whole article here: "Working to reveal the secrets of the earliest animals".

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