Oldest Land Animal Fossil Found
His discovery has been published in the peer reviewed journal African Invertebrate.
Explaining his discovery, Gess said that early life was confined to the sea and the process of terrestrialisation - the movement of life onto land - began during the Silurian Period roughly 420 million years ago. The first wave of life to move out from water onto land consisted of plants, which gradually increased in size and complexity throughout the Devonian Period.
This initial colonisation of land was closely followed by plant and debris-eating invertebrate animals such as primitive insects and millipedes. By the end of the Silurian period about 416 million years ago, predatory invertebrates such as scorpions and spiders were feeding on the earlier colonists of land.
Evidence on the earliest colonisation of land animals has up till now come only from the northern hemisphere continent of Laurasia, and there has been no evidence that Gondwana was inhabited by land living invertebrate animals at that time,” explained Gess.
For the first time we know for certain that not just scorpions, but whatever they were preying on were already present in the Devonian. We now know that by the end the Devonian period Gondwana also, like Laurasia, had a complex terrestrial ecosystem, comprising invertebrates and plants which had all the elements to sustain terrestrial vertebrate life that emerged around this time or slightly later,” said Gess.
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