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Bilaterian Burrows and Grazing Behavior at >585 Million Years Ago

Science  29 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6089, pp. 1693-1696
DOI: 10.1126/science.1216295

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Abstract

Based on molecular clocks and biomarker studies, it is possible that bilaterian life emerged early in the Ediacaran, but at present, no fossils or trace fossils from this time have been reported. Here we report the discovery of the oldest bilaterian burrows in shallow-water glaciomarine sediments from the Tacuarí Formation, Uruguay. Uranium-lead dating of zircons in cross-cutting granite dykes constrains the age of these burrows to be at least 585 million years old. Their features indicate infaunal grazing activity by early eumetazoans. Active backfill within the burrow, an ability to wander upward and downward to exploit shallowly situated sedimentary laminae, and sinuous meandering suggest advanced behavioral adaptations. These findings unite the paleontological and molecular data pertaining to the evolution of bilaterians, and link bilaterian origins to the environmental changes that took place during the Neoproterozoic glaciations.

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