"A little cholesterol is all you need to make the discovery of the century, " joke scientists at the Australian National University. We are talking about the identification of the mysterious Dickinsonians, one of the brightest representatives of the Ediacaran biota. Thanks to the selfless work of the Russian paleontologist Ilya Bobrovsky and his findings, there is now no doubt that the most ancient animals on Earth lived millions of years earlier than we thought.
Dickinsonians lived on the ocean floor of the Ediacaran era, could grow up to 1.4 m in length and had a characteristic oval shape with symmetrical grooves. Certainly living beings, but who were they? Mushroom, jellyfish, worm, polychaete, xenophyophora, polyp, just a lichen? The version about animals was also put forward, but the Dickinsonians lived too long ago - as much as 558 million years ago. Where did the animals come from in those days?
Ilya Bobrovsky was engaged in the extraction of fossils on the rocks in the White Sea, for which he had to go down on mountaineering equipment from a 100-meter height and cut samples from sandstone on a steep slope. One of his findings turned out to be unique - traces of Dickinsonia were preserved so well that scientists found cholesterol molecules among them. It is an organic molecule that is present in 30% of animal cell wall membranes and determines their structure and function. And this is an important trait that separates animals from other species. So Dickinsonia was not a mushroom or a herb, but an animal!
The Australian colleagues were very interested in the find and conducted an independent examination, which confirmed that the ancient fat molecules belonged to Dickinsonia, were part of her body. This automatically makes Dickinsonium the oldest animals on our planet, closes one of the mysteries of paleontology and inspires new searches and research.