50-year-old puzzle solved, animal tracks that date back before animals

A team of researchers believes that they have finally answered a 50-year-old geological mystery that is encased in solid rock.

@JakConnorTT
Published Mon, Oct 4 2021 3:34 AM CDT   |   Updated Thu, Oct 28 2021 1:26 PM CDT

A mystery that has spanned almost half a century has just been answered, according to a team of researchers.

50-year-old puzzle solved, animal tracks that date back before animals 01 | TweakTown.com

The mystery involved the above image, which is a trace fossil. A trace fossil shows the activity of an animal rather than the animal themselves, and these types of fossils provide really valuable information to researchers looking to understand the evolution of complex life on Earth. The quartzite rock was discovered in Mount Barren in southwestern Australia, and the tracks embedded in it appear to have been made by crustaceans that burrow into the sand.

The only problem is, "quartzite is as hard as concrete and impossible for burrowing animals to penetrate. The traces would therefore have had to be made while the sand was still loose. But the sand was deposited 1.7 billion years ago - a billion years prior to the appearance of the first animals in the fossil record, and its transformation to quartzite occurred more than 1.2 billion years ago, much earlier than the oldest animal fossils, which are less than 0.6 billion years old," said paleontologist Bruce Runnegar from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

In the new study, researchers propose that animals created the marks on the quartzite, but what had happened as that weathering and flooding caused the rock to soften, giving an opportunity for burrowing animals to make their mark before the rock hardened again.

Birger Rasmussen, a geologist from the University of Western Australia, said, "The age turned out to be more than a billion years younger than the enclosing quartzite. The burrows could therefore have been made by animals."

Paleontologist Stefan Bengtson from the Swedish Museum of Natural History added, "These trace fossils in the 'wrong' rocks have been a mystery for half-a-century. We are glad to have been able to demonstrate geological processes that resolve this conundrum."

For more information on this story, check out this link here.

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Jak joined the TweakTown team in 2017 and has since reviewed 100s of new tech products and kept us informed daily on the latest science and space news. Jak's love for science, space, and technology, and, more specifically, PC gaming, began at 10 years old. It was the day his dad showed him how to play Age of Empires on an old Compaq PC. Ever since that day, Jak fell in love with games and the progression of the technology industry in all its forms. Instead of typical FPS, Jak holds a very special spot in his heart for RTS games.

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