World's oldest footprints found in China

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That leaves a mystery about what kind of animal left the tracks.

They are often assumed to have appeared and radiated suddenly during the "Cambrian Explosion" about 541-510 million years ago, although it has always been suspected that their evolutionary ancestry was rooted in the Ediacaran Period.

Previously, it was believed animals with pairs of legs capable of leaving such footprints first appeared during the "Cambrian Explosion" about 541 to 510 million years ago.

The scientists found the trackways in the Dengying Formation, a site in the Yangtze Gorges area of southern China.

Animals left the first footprints on Earth up to 551 million years ago, according to ancient tracks found in China. This is considered the earliest animal fossil footprint record.

A staff member of the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences displays the animal fossil footprints, which were made in the Ediacaran Period, June 6, 2018.

"The trackways are somewhat irregular, consisting of two rows of imprints that are arranged in series or repeated groups", explained notes from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. This early evidence of limbed critters is important for scientists, he added, as it can help us understand their evolution. As the Inquisitr previously reported, up until that historic event, which lasted for 20-25 million years and gave rise to most of the major animal groups on the planet, animal life on Earth was limited to simpler, single-celled or multicellular organisms. In fact, the China discovery represents one of the earliest known records of animals evolving appendages.

This is a group of animals characterised by having paired appendages - in this case, perhaps, paired legs.

Both the footprints and the borrows are known as "trace fossils", a term that refers to fossilized remnants that animals leave behind, such as fossilized poop, rather than fossils of the animals themselves.

By looking at the ancient trackway - of which The Guardian has made an animation of, that you can watch below - the team was able to determine that this prehistoric creature had multiple paired feet that raised its body above the ocean floor.

The animal appears to have paused from time to time, since the trackways appear to be connected to burrows that may have been dug into the sediment, "perhaps to mine oxygen and food", said the report.

While the researchers are unable to identify the animal behind the footprints, there are three types of living animals with paired appendages: arthropods such as bumble bees, annelids such as bristle worms, and tetrapods which include humans.