From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Dickensonia, Bhimbetka
Mains level : Stone age paintings in India
Researchers have found the first-ever fossil in India of a Dickinsonia —the Earth’s ‘oldest animal’, dating back 570 million years — on the roof of what’s called the ‘Auditorium Cave’ at Bhimbetka.
- Dickinsonia is an extinct genus of basal animal that lived during the late Ediacaran period in what is now Australia, Russia and Ukraine.
- The individual Dickinsonia typically resembles a bilaterally symmetrical ribbed oval.
- Its affinities are presently unknown; its mode of growth is consistent with a stem-group bilaterian affinity, though some have suggested that it belongs to the fungi or even an “extinct kingdom”.
- The discovery of cholesterol molecules in fossils of Dickinsonia lends support to the idea that Dickinsonia was an animal.
What are the new findings?
Like the awe-inspiring rock shelters themselves, this fossil was discovered by chance.
- Dickinsonia fossils have shown that they could exceed four feet in length but the one found in Bhimbetka is 17 inches long.
- Eleven feet above the ground, almost blending with the rock and easily mistaken by laymen for prehistoric rock art, they found imprints of the Dickinsonia.
- It is believed to be one of the key links between the early, simple organisms and the explosion of life in the Cambrian Period, about 541 million years ago.
Cambrian Explosion and Dickinsonia
- The ‘Cambrian Explosion’ is the term given to the period of time in history when complex animals and other macroscopic organisms such as molluscs, worms, arthropods and sponges began to dominate the fossil record.
- Researchers from Australian found the Dickinsonia fossil since its tissue contained molecules of cholesterol a type of fat that is the hallmark of animal life.
Do you know?
Cosmogenic nuclide dating is deployed to determine time of earliest human culture. India’s oldest stone-age tools, up to 1.5 million years old, are at a prehistoric site near Chennai.
- The Bhimbetka rock shelters are an archaeological site in central India that spans the prehistoric Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods, as well as the historic period.
- It exhibits the earliest traces of human life in India and evidence of Stone Age starting at the site in Acheulian times.
- It is located in the Raisen District in Madhya Pradesh about 45 kilometres (28 mi) south-east of Bhopal.
- It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that consists of seven hills and over 750 rock shelters distributed over 10 km (6.2 mi).
- At least some of the shelters were inhabited more than 100,000 years ago.
- Some of the Bhimbetka rock shelters feature prehistoric cave paintings and the earliest are about 10,000 years old (c. 8,000 BCE), corresponding to the Indian Mesolithic.
- These cave paintings show themes such as animals, early evidence of dance and hunting.
- The Bhimbetka rock shelters were found by V S Wakankar 64 years ago. Since then, thousands of researchers have visited the site, but this rare fossil went undetected.