According to a new study, Saccorhytus coronarius may be humanity’s oldest yet discovered human ancestor. But why the unease? Perhaps because of its extremely odd appearance and characteristics.
A team of researchers has been analyzing microfossils. Discovered in China, they include some bizarre looking specimens. And one of them in particular, Saccorhytus, has been raising questions.
According to the study results, this latter could be humanity’s oldest yet discovered ancestor. And not only men’s. The deuterostome could have been the early form of many other varied species.
University of Cambridge, England researchers took part in the study. Research results were released earlier this week. They were published in the Nature journal. Available online since January 30, the paper was titled as follows. “Meiofaunal deuterostomes from the basal Cambrian of Shaanxi (China)”.
Simon Conway Morris went to offer details. He is a Cambridge University Professor of Evolutionary Palaeobiology and a study co-author. According to him, research led to the following conclusion. Saccorhytus could represent the early, primitive beginnings of a great variety of species. And this includes humanity as well.
The study analyzed this early deuterostome. To the naked eye, the microfossils look like small black grains. Put under a microscope, the situation reportedly changes. They revealed an incredible level of details.
Conway Morris points out the following. All deuterostomes are sure to have had a common ancestor. And according to the current study, Saccorhytus may be it.
The microfossil samples were found in the Shaanxi Province. This is situated in central China. The samples were estimated to be around 540 million years old. This would place their existence to the early Cambrian period.
Other deuterostomes samples have been previously found. The term envelopes a large category of animals. It can denote anything from a tiny ant to a gigantic whale. The previously oldest fossil samples were estimated to be 510 – 520 million years old.
At the time, they had already started the diversification process. Vertebrates, echinoderms, and sea squirts were already distinguishable.
Saccorhytus is a rather simpler specimen. It was very small in size. This may have permitted it to live on the ocean floor. Most likely, in between sediment grains. It may have fed on other tiny creatures. Its oddly large mouth could have contributed.
Research also believes that it may have another, rather unappealing function as well. It may have also functioned as an anus. They reached this conclusion as the creature apparently lacks this latter body part.
Saccorhytus was a bilaterally symmetrical creature. This has been passed along to quite a lot of its descendants. The tiny creature was covered by a thin and rather flexible skin. As such, this could indicate a musculature. This could have helped it move. By contracting the muscle, it could have wriggled about.
Degan Shu also released a statement. He is part of the Northwest University in China and a study co-author. Shu stated that Saccorhytus can offer a remarkable insight into the very early species. It could represent one of evolution’s earliest stages. As it evolved, the creature could have led to the appearance of fish. In the end, it could have also contributed to the appearance of man.
Even if some reports have compared it to a little beast. Or more exactly, a “wrinkled old sack”, as its name would translate. Still, the Saccorhytus could very well be one of humanity’s earliest relatives. According to Conway Morris, the team will keep looking for even earlier samples.
They will try to look even deeper back in time, as stated by the professor himself.
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