New studies on Dickensonia, world’s oldest fossil animal

Science Daily reports that researchers at the University of California Riverside are studying the world’s oldest fossil animal, Dickinsonia, to learn more about the evolutionary history of animals.

In their latest study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, Scott Evans, a graduate student in the Department of Earth Sciences, Mary Droser, a professor of paleontology, both in UCR’s College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, and ¬†James Gelding of the South Australia Museum, show that the Ediacaran-era fossil animal Dickinsonia developed in a complex, highly regulated way using a similar genetic toolkit to today’s animals. The study helps place Dickinsonia in the early evolution of animal life, and showcases how the large, mobile sea creature grew and developed.

Dickinsonia was a flat, oval-shaped creature that ranged in size from less than an inch to several feet, and is characterized by a series of raised bands — known as modules — on its surface. These animals are of interest to paleontologists because they are the first to become large and complex, to move around, and form communities, yet little is known about them. For years, scientists have been debating the taxonomic status of Dickinsonia — placing it with fungi, marine worms and jellyfish, to name a few. It is now generally accepted that Dickinsonia was an animal, now extinct.

READ the ARTICLE: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0176874