Recently, fossil hunters and researchers discovered a new creature looking like a teardrop-shaped jellybean that’s about half the size of a grain of rice, which revealed to be an early relative of a vast array of animals and humans.
555 Million Years Old Relative
Looking like a teardrop-shaped jellybean and just around half the size of a single grain of rice, the newly discovered creature’s fossils were discovered in rocks at the outback of South Australia, and are thought to be at least around 555 million years old.
Per the fossil hunters that discovered it, these small creatures are currently one of the earliest known examples of an organism that is bilateral, meaning that it’s an animal with a front and a back, a gut that opens at each end and a plane of symmetry that gives it a left and right side. For example, animals like pigs, spiders and even butterflies are all bilateral, while creatures like jellyfish are not.
“The major finding of the paper is that this is possibly the oldest bilaterian yet recognised in the fossil record. Because humans are bilaterians, we can say that this was a very early relative and possibly one of the first on the diverse bilaterian tree of life,” Dr. Scott Evans, a co-author of the research, from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, said.
Per Evans and his team, the animal has been named Ikaria wariootia, which is a reference to an indigenous term for Wilpena Pound, as well as the Warioota Creek that is close to where the fossils were discovered.
According to the team, they found more than 100 fossils of the creatures in burrows, as well as impressions on the rock that revealed the creatures were soft-bodied.
“One major difference with a grain of rice is that Ikaria had a large and small end. This may seem trivial but that means it had a distinct front and back end, which is the kind of organisation that leads to the variety of things with heads and tails that are around today,” Evans added, making the creature, well, a distant relative of ours.