"The fossils from Cretaceous age found in Lebanon" by Brocken Inaglory / CC BY-SA 3.0

Oldest Guts Ever Found May Reveal the Identity of a Mysterious Primordial Creature

Jan 10, 2020

By Stephanie Pappas

Tiny, tubular fossils found in Nevada may contain the oldest digestive tracts ever found.

The fossils date back more than half a billion years, to the late Ediacaran period. That makes them about 30 million years older than the next-oldest fossilized guts on record. More important than their age, though, is that these fossilized guts could finally pinpoint the identity of one of the most widespread types of animals before the Cambrian explosion, the rapid diversification of life that occurred soon after the end of the Ediacaran.

“It’s a unique time frame, because it exists right in between the weirdos of the Ediacaran. We don’t know what they are; they’re bag-like animals that were maybe not animals, maybe just complex eukaryotes — they exist between those and what we know from the Cambrian, which we can recognize as animal life,” said James Schiffbauer, a paleobiologist at the University of Missouri who led the new research.

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