The oldest known food

What did the first animals eat? The investigation made it possible to find answers to this question and others related to it.

The study was conducted by a team led by Ilya Bobrovsky, of the Australian National University (ANU) who now works at the German Research Center for Geosciences (GFZ) in Potsdam.

The Ediacaran biota includes the world’s oldest macroorganisms, dating back 575 million years.

Bobrovsky and his colleagues discovered that the oldest known animals fed on bacteria and algae from the sea floor. They also discovered how they were able to swallow and digest these products, the first to be defined as food from an animal perspective.

The researchers analyzed animal fossils in which phytosterol molecules (natural chemical products of plant origin) were preserved. These phytosterol molecules are what’s left of the last food the animals ate before they died.

By examining the molecular effects of what the animals ate shortly before they died, the researchers were able to confirm that a slug-like creature, known as Kimberella, has a mouth and gut and digests food the same way humans do. . Researchers believe that it may have been one of the most advanced of the Ediacaran fauna.

Kimberella fossil. (Photo: Ilya Bobrovskiy/GFZ-Potsdam)

The study authors also discovered that another animal, which grew up to 1.4 meters in length and had a body with similar structures in the shape of its ribs, was less complex and had no eyes, mouth or intestines. The strange creature, called Dickinsonia, sucks in food through “pores” in its body as it prowls the ocean floor.

“Our findings suggest that the Ediacaran biofauna, which lived on Earth before the ‘Cambrian Explosion’ of modern animal life, was a mixture of extraterrestrials such as Dickinsonia, and more advanced animals such as Kimberella that already had some physiological characteristics similar to humans and living animals.” others, ”summarizes Bobrovsky.

Kimberella and Dickinsonia, which have a structure and symmetry different from those found in the animal kingdom today, were part of the Ediacaran organisms that lived on Earth about 20 million years before the Cambrian Explosion, a major evolutionary breakthrough. of life, giving rise to many new species in a short time. The Cambrian Explosion forever changed the course of the evolution of life on Earth.

As Bobrovsky explains, the Ediacaran biota has the distinction of having the oldest fossils of all those large enough to be visible to the naked eye, and in more ways than one is the defining ancestry of us humans as well as all of us. existing today. These creatures are our deepest visible roots.

The study is entitled “Gates, Intestinal Contents, and Feeding Strategies of Ediacaran Animals”. It has been published in the academic journal Current Biology. (Line: NCYT by Amazings)

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