Ever wondered what you great, great, great, great, great (times four and a half million) grandmother looked like?
Well, an international team of scientists has found out. The microfossil Saccorhytus has been discovered in China and is widely believed to be the oldest ancestor of human evolution; living in the prehistoric time of 540 million years ago in China. Our dear old ancestor resembled a wrinkly bag, deriving its name from the Greek ‘saccus’ for bag and ‘rhytus’ for folds or wrinkles. Saccorhytus also had conical openings on either side of its elliptical body which could have developed into gills, giving scientists an indication of the link between human and fish evolution.
The deuterostome- an animal whose mouth develops after the anus- had a mouth that appears large enough that it is likely Saccorhytus ate by engulfing food particles or other creatures around at the time. What the fossil lacks however is evidence that our ancestor ever had an anus- this led scientists to make the assumption that waste was excreted through the mouth… gross!
The rest of the one millimetre length body of the Saccorhytus was covered in a thin flexible skin, implicating some forms of muscles which would have allowed Saccorhytus to wriggle around in the muddy sands.
There are still a few gaps to fill in our evolutionary history, but this discovery has added 30 million years to what we previously knew.
I for one, however, don’t see the family resemblance.
Find out more here.
Featured Image: pixabay