Senryu : fat new animal

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Dickinsonia photo by Masahiro miyasaka [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
wondered, “what is it?”
throwing fossils down a cliff
ahh! fat! animal!

senryu by M. LaFreniere

After Australian scientists found a new fossil in 1947, many scientists around the world have been playing twenty questions.  What is it?  Is it a lichen? A fungus? A giant single-celled amoeba? An animal?

A team from the Australian National University (ANU) decided to take a different approach.  Rather than reconstruct how it looked from the outside which had proved difficult due to 558 million years of weathering, they decided to analyze the molecules.  Working with teams from Russian Academy of Science, the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry and the University of Bremen, they gathered useful fossils and took them home to their labs.

Ilya Bobrovskiy, the lead writer of the resulting published findings, said (as quoted by CNN) “I had to hang over the edge of a cliff on ropes and dig out huge blocks of sandstone, throw them down, wash the sandstone and repeat this process until I found the fossils I was after,” he added.” as he needed fossils with intact organic matter.

Extracting lipid biomarkers, what did they find?  93% cholesterol!  Which means that thing was a basal animal, making them the first known animals millions of years before other identified animals.

Goes to show you.  On occasion, fat molecules can prove useful after all.

References:

Ancient steroids establish the Ediacaran fossil Dickinsonia as one of the earliest animals
by Ilya Bobrovskiy, Janet M. Hope, Andrey Ivantsov, Benjamin J. Nettersheim, Christian Hallmann, Jochen J. Brocks, et al.
Science, September 21, 2018, Vol. 361, Issue 6408, pp. 1246-1249
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat7228

World’s oldest known animal identified after decades-long mystery
By Rob Picheta, CNN, September 21, 2018

Dickinsonia
Wikipedia

Image File:Dickinsonia lissa ディッキンソニア リッサ.jpg
Dickinsonia lissa photographed by Masahiro miyasaka on January 27, 2018 with an Olympus digital camera
Wikimedia commons

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