According to archaeologists and geologists, our earth has witnessed 5 mass extinctions that wiped out most species existing contemporarily. It is hard to identify the oldest animal species existing on earth as the evidence might have been wiped out multiple times. We all thought that dinosaurs were the oldest known animals.
Archaeological evidence suggests that animals existed way before the dinosaurs. Fossils we have found date back before the existence of these reptiles. These fossils suggest that primitive animals existed. The recent discoveries made in India have changed the concepts of the oldest animal species existing on the earth. It all started with a drawing scribble 10000 years ago of the oldest animal in the world in a cave. Let us find out!
As mentioned earlier, we have found the fossils of dinosaurs for decades and thought that they were the oldest animals existing. If we consider the process of evolution, we can conclude that animals did exist before such complex life forms or reptiles ruled the earth. Deciding on the world's first animal is very inconclusive due to the lack of proper evidence.
The main problem is we did not have proper evidence to prove the existence of primitive animals millions of years before these giants. It has been theorised that dinosaurs appeared around 250 million years ago during the Triassic Period. On the other hand, the age of our planet is 4.543 billion years.
It is also predicted rather than documented that the existence of microorganisms dates back to 3.7 billion years. Hence, the process of evolution of complex life forms definitely started way before the existence of dinosaurs. So, where is the evidence of the existence of the oldest animal on earth?
So, which is the first animal in the world? The question still baffles geologists, archaeologists and researchers around the world. As mentioned earlier, the only evidence of the existence of a prehistoric species is the discovery of fossils. The dates of a fossil can be estimated from carbon dating. It also means that the oldest known fossil will be the only proof of the oldest animal species.
Well, here is the fascinating story of the oldest known animal on the earth to date. Archaeologists were tiring the Bhimbetka Rock Shelters located in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. It is the World UNESCO Heritage Site (2003) that holds the evidence of cave paintings dating back 10,000 years ago. It is the only proof of the oldest known civilization existing in 8000 BC.
These cave paintings show how animals were reared and used for various purposes. It also depicts humans hunting and dancing showcasing the features of a civilised race existing in these caves. While doing this amazing discovery, the archaeologists stumbled upon a fossil that baffled all. It was the fossil of a species called Dickinsonia.
The features of this fossil have never been witnessed by researchers and archaeologists in the world. It is composed of ringed discs to form a patterned blob. The fossil resembled wavy fronds and lumpy ropes. It looked like a huge plant leaf. After the process of carbon dating, it was found that this fossil was at least 570 million years old.
It means that this species existed during the Late Ediacaran Period. This is the oldest known fossil and the evidence of the oldest species in the world. The fossil of this species has been discovered before in 1972 in Australia but the age was not defined. This discovery in India is one of a kind. It is 17 inches in length. The previous findings are nearly 4 feet long. According to the fossil data, these samples were found in different parts of the world other than the Antarctic region.
Now that we know the oldest known complex life form existing on the earth, the real question of whether this is a plant or an animal arises. The question ‘what is Dickinsonia?’ has puzzled scientists across the world. The primitive structure of this species is very inconclusive.
Dickinsonia, The Oldest known Complex Animal Species
As the scientific methods of finding the remnants of a fossil advanced, researchers found traces of cholesterol molecules in this fossil. Hence, this debatable topic had a conclusion after all. In 2018, scientists confirmed that Dickinsonia is an animal as cholesterol is a complex bio-molecule that only exists in animals.
As per this discovery in India, the answer to which is the oldest animal is Dickinsonia. What did we gain by proving it as a prehistoric animal species? The proof of its animal origin has created new links in finding the lost links of evolution.
We have already discussed that this animal is the oldest known complex life form that existed long before the dinosaurs. It suggests many new theories of how animals evolve from such primitive life forms.
It has been a long question of how life is formed on our planet. There are many theories and hypotheses but they are not conclusive. Discovering this fossil however links a few eras of the evolution of complex animal life forms on the earth. We may not be able to conclude how life formed but can find answers to how more complex animals evolved in due course of time.
We have found the answer to which is the oldest animal on earth. It is our turn to join the dots and find out how the animals evolved, existed, and got extinct. This is a very common animal that existed on the Indian Subcontinent. It links so many unanswered questions and has paved the way for new research based on the evolution of humans. We hope you enjoyed reading this blog. If this interests you, head to our website for more such topics.