An international team of researchers have discovered the fossilized remains of a 540-million-year-old critter the size of a grain of sand, which researchers believe might be at the other end of humans’ family tree.
The tiny ancient creature called Saccorhytus coronaries’ remains were discovered in Shaanxi Province, central China. It lived nearly 540 million years ago, during the early Cambrian period, when the region was covered by a shallow ocean.
The study led by University of Cambridge researchers suggested that this ancient creature might be the oldest known member of a category of animals that are common ancestors to a broad range of other species, from starfish and sea urchins to the huge group classified as vertebrates.
The researchers said in a statement, “Saccorhytus coronaries may be the earliest known step on an evolutionary path that eventually led to the emergence of humans.”
After studying the specimen under an electron microscope, the researchers found that the ancient creature had an oval-shaped body. Merely 0.04 inches in size, the creature was covered with a very thin, relatively flexible skin. It had muscles beneath the skin, and it would contract those muscles to move and wriggling around.
The discovery of the ancient tiny creature published in the Tuesday (Jan. 31st) edition of the journal Nature.