A team of scientists has recently discovered human's oldest ancestor along with other species in central China. The fossilized ...
A team of scientists has recently discovered human's oldest ancestor along with other species in central China. The fossilized remnants of the prehistoric creature are said to be "exquisitely well preserved". Estimated to be about 540 million years old, its fossils were found at the archaeological site of Xi’an in the Shaanxi Province.
The tiny sea animal is the oldest known step behind the human evolution, the sea animal evolved to fish which ultimately evolved into humans.
According to the researchers, Saccorhytus is the most primitive known species of animal category superphylum “Deuterostomia”. They are ancestors of many species that includes vertebrates also. This creature of nearly 1 mm in size is supposed to have lived between sand grains on the seabed.
The study involved a team of researchers from the UK, China, and Germany. Prof Simon Conway Morris from the University of Cambridge told BBC News,
"To the naked eye, the fossils we studied look like tiny black grains, but under the microscope the level of detail was jaw-dropping. We think that as an early deuterostome this may represent the primitive beginnings of a very diverse range of species, including ourselves. All deuterostomes had a common ancestor, and we think that is what we are looking at here."
Degan Shu from Northwest University in Xi'an said,
"Saccorhytus now gives us remarkable insights into the very first stages of the evolution of a group that led to the fish, and ultimately, to us."
The deuterostome species that have been discovered till date were around 510-520 million years ago. They appeared much different from each other and that made it hard for the scientists to figure out how our ancestor may have actually looked like.
The findings say that Saccorhytus had a symmetrical body, an attribute passed on to many evolutionary descendants including humans. It also had a covering of thin and unique skin and flexible muscles. The researchers inferred from this the creature moved by muscle contraction.
The scientists find its large mouth to be its most amazing feature. It supposedly consumed food or other creatures by swallowing its particles. Another intriguing feature is the conical structure that may have allowed the swallowed water to escape and thus could be an earlier form of gills.
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