A fossilised centipede-like creature discovered in Scotland may represent the oldest known land animal, a humble pioneer of life on Earth 425 million years ago.
Scientists say the silhouette-era fossil, discovered on the island of Kerrera in the Scottish Hebride and called Kampecaris onensis, inhabited the lakeside area and fed on decomposing plants.
The fossil of the oldest plant, called Cooksonia, was also found in the same area.
Although Kampecaris is the oldest terrestrial animal known to be from fossils, it is believed to have been preceded by worms in the soil, probably 450 million years ago, said paleontologist Michael Brookfield of the University of Texas, lead author of the study published in the journal Historical Biology.
Kampecaris, about 2.5 centimeters long, resembles modern centipedes, but is a member of an extinct species that is not an ancestor of today’s centipede. Kampecaris’ legs were not preserved in the fossil.
He was a member of the cone, a member of a broad group of invertebrates that included insects, spiders and centipedes.
Life first developed in the world’s oceans, and the explosion of biodiversity started roughly 540 million years ago.
It took time for life to appear on land, starting with plants like moss 450 million years ago. Later development of plants with a furnace like Cooksonia helped develop a more complex terrestrial ecosystem.
The first terrestrial vertebrates, amphibians that evolved from fish that lived in the shallows, showed up 375 million years ago and were the ancestors of reptiles, birds and mammals as we know them today.