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550 million-year-old creature mystery solved

Posted on Wednesday, 20 September, 2017 | Comment icon 6 comments

What exactly is this thing ? Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Verisimilus
Scientists believe that they have finally worked out what type of creature 'Dickinsonia' actually was.
Resembling a strange cross between a fungus, a lichen, a worm and a jellyfish, this peculiar organism was first described back in 1947 and has remained something of an enigma ever since.

Dickinsonia lived hundreds of millions of years ago on the sea floor and ranged in size from a few millimeters across to around half a meter. What's particularly intriguing about the species is that it was one of the earliest known organisms to move around rather than simply staying rooted to the spot.

Now a new study conducted by researchers from the universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Bristol has determined that Dickinsonia was most likely to have been an animal as oppose to a plant or a fungus.

The research involved analyzing the 'units' that run down the length of the creature's body and comparing them to those of other specimens to determine the rate of growth over time.

"When we combined this growth data with previously obtained information on how Dickinsonia moved, as well as some of its morphological features, we were able to reject all non-animal possibilities for its original biological affinity and show that it was an early animal, belonging to either the Placozoa or the Eumetazoa," said Dr Renee Hoekzema, a PhD candidate in Oxford University's Mathematical Institute.

"This is one of the first times that a member of the Ediacaran biota has been identified as an animal on the basis of positive evidence."

Source: | Comments (6)

Tags: Dickinsonia

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by paperdyer on 20 September, 2017, 18:33
With terms like "more than likely" I don't consider this "solved" A good working theory but not solved.
Comment icon #2 Posted by pallidin on 21 September, 2017, 1:23
Looks like a damn prehistoric plant leaf to me.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Sundew on 21 September, 2017, 1:53
If I remember correctly these lifeforms occurred before the Cambrian explosion and although they look bilaterally symmetrical like modern animals, the segments are alternate on either side of the midline. All the lifeforms from this period are very strange.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Calibeliever on 21 September, 2017, 14:02
A good example of the scientific process is on display here. For those who dismiss scientific conclusions because they don't "feel" right, this is the level of rigor that is required to "know" something, even whenthe subject matter seems somewhat trivial.
Comment icon #5 Posted by oldrover on 23 September, 2017, 1:27
They're sometimes known as the 'fractals because rather than just bilateral symmetry, it ran down to the component parts being little versions if the whole. And yes they were Precambrian, also known as the Ediacaran Fauna, after the Ediacara Hills in the Founders Range in South Australia, although the earliest example, and earliest example of complex Precambrian life is actually Charnia, found in Charnwood Forest, in England. By a boy who went to the same school as David Attenborough.
Comment icon #6 Posted by oldrover on 23 September, 2017, 1:27
Sod that auto correct. I give in.

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