Monday, October 13, 2008

Oldest Fossil Footprints?

National Geogrpahic is reporting what may be the oldest fossilized footprints ever discovered have been found in Nevada. Clocking in at an estimated 570 million years ago, they beat the consensus time for pedally locomoted animals by 30 million years.

"The controversial tracks—described by one skeptical scientist as "paired rows of dots"— may indicate animals had legs in the late Protozoic era, about 570 million years ago, according to lead researcher Loren Babcock. The discovery is the strongest evidence to suggest animals were able to move about on their own appendages during the Ediacaran period, before the Cambrian period "explosion." During the Cambrian complex animals rapidly emerged and replaced simple multicellular animals, said the Ohio State University professor."

The fossil trakc were unearthed near Death Valley in the Deep Spring rock formation near the Nevada city of Goldfield. This rock formaiton is made up of sedimentary layers made up of sandstone, limestone, shale and other materials are is around 600 million years old. The fossil tracks appear to be made by some type of centipede like creature and are just a few millimeters across. However, there are already some doubters, as the area may have been covered by as shallow sea and such a small aquatic animal would be unlikely to leave such tracks without shuffling their body in the mud alongside the footprints.

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