Scientists have recently discovered the world’s oldest known human ancestor–and it is 540 million years old.
This microscopic, and rather unattractive, sea creature, is an ancient example of a “deuterostome,” or a creature that eventually evolved into a wide array of species including vertebrates.
The creature that is described as “bag-like” due to the its wrinkled body, is known as a Saccorhytus coronaries and was discovered in central China, which during the period of this creature’s existence would have been covered by the ocean.
“We think that as an early deuterostome, this may represent the primitive beginnings of a very diverse range of species, including ourselves. To the naked eye, the fossils we studied look like tiny black grains, but under the microscope the level of detail is jaw-dropping.All deuterostomes had a common ancestor, and we think that is what we are looking at here.”
The previous earliest discover of deuterostomes were from 510 to 520 million years ago.
Those, according to scientists, had already begun to diversify and turn into the earliest ancestors of different types of fish and other invertebrates.
But this discovery takes us back even further in time.
This microscopic animal had no arms or legs, and presumably made its way around by contracting its muscles.
It also had a very large mouth in comparison to the rest of its body, meaning it likely ate food particles or even consumed other creatures.
Notably, it also contained a conical structure on its body, which allowed it to release water and was possibly an early form of gills.
Additionally, the creature does not appear to have an anus or any kind of other opening to release waste.
Scientists speculate that it let go of unneeded material by regurgitating it through the mouth.
Scientists, however, are having a hard time finding any animals that now predate deuterosomes and the ancestors which birthed them.
This is likely because these types of animals would be so small that it would be very difficult or almost impossible to find the fossils they have left behind.
The findings and analysis of the new animal can be found in the journal Nature.