A new study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B and funded by the Natural Environment Research Council now suggests that the first animals to have complex skeletons lived before the Cambrian period, nearly 550 million years ago.
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The research carried out by an international team of scientists reveals that the Namacalathus hermanastes lived during the Ediacaran Period, and its well-preserved fossils show it is the first animal to have complex skeletons long before other creatures appeared on the scene.
Without earlier proof to the existence of the Namacalathus, scientists had previously believed that the first animal to have complex skeletons looked like sponges or coral that lived in the Cambrian Period. But with the fossil unearthed in Namibia, they now find the Namacalathus had it first.
The fossils of the Namacalathus show it is made up of calcium carbonate, the hard material that forms the shells of marine animals. Meanwhile, the structure of the complex skeletons of the Namacalathus looks like those of creatures living at the depth or bottom of the sea.
"This fossil has been known for a long time, and was assumed to have been a primitive animal, such as a sponge or coral,” said Professor Rachel Wood of the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences, who led the study. “This study suggests that it was, in fact, more advanced. We have suspected that these complex animals were present in the Ediacaran, but this study provides the first proof."
Researchers from Lomonosov Moscow State University also took part in the study.