A group of Siberian Paleontologists has come across the oldest macro-skeleton remains, which belonged to microorganisms that inhabited the Earth some 700 million years ago.
The strange creature-Palaeopascichnus – is similar to a series of spheres placed one by one and called chambers.
These creatures have been known in the scientific community for a long time, as they have been found all across the world.
Palaeopascichnus was considered by scientists as fossil traces of life activity for a while. Some theories described them as traces on the surface of a substrate, or sediment that were left behind by animal migration in search of food, while other experts firmly believed that Palaeopascichnus were petrified chains of feces, while other suggested they were remnants of ancient algae.
Too many theories and little room for progress
Now, scientists from the Institute of Petroleum Geology and Geophysics SB RAS and Novosibirsk State University, and colleagues from Great Britain and France have managed, for the first time ever, to prove that Palaeopascichnus was a skeletal organism that lived on Earth some 700 million years ago.
Researchers discovered that Palaeopascichnus was similar to modern giant protozoa, which are deep-sea single-cell xenophyophores. Palaeopascichnus are thought to have lived up to the beginning of the Cambrian, and theoretically modern xenophyophores may be their distant descendants.
Palaeopascichnus were small, yet extremely strange ancient organisms.
Staying motionless at the bottom of the sea floor, the creature agglutinated exoskeleton by gluing around itself various particles of rocks and sediment from the surrounding space.
“The material was collected in the Arctic at the Olenek uplift of the northeast of the Siberian platform, where a very large accumulation of organisms was found,” says one of the researchers Anton Kolesnikov, member of Institute of Petroleum Geology and Geophysics SB RAS and Doctor of the University of Lille.
“When we made a thin cut through the Palaeopascichnus across the chamber, we saw that there is a certain wall composed of a material that is more coarse in comparison to the host rocks.”
To study the creatures efficiently, researchers made thin saw cuts, studied the fossils under a microscope, performed tomography studies, and used a scanning electron microscope to find out as much as possible about Palaeopascichnus.
Scientists also explored additional material obtained from the White Sea, Ukraine, Australia, Canada, and all these samples eventually confirmed the existence of the skeleton.
The thing is that there are plenty of organisms like Palaeopascichnus,” Anton Kolesnikov notes.
“For instance, genus Orbesiana, which was discovered in the well drilled near Moscow by a famous scientist, founder of the Ediacaran biota study, Boris Sokolov. He described the fossils that he found as the ancient macroscopic algae, and after that, this material got lost for a while. Recently, the family of Boris Sokolov offered us his archives and we found the original material with a detailed explanatory note.”