Discovery of the oldest bilaterian from the Ediacaran of South Australia.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 04 07; 117(14):7845-7850.PN
Analysis of modern animals and Ediacaran trace fossils predicts that the oldest bilaterians were simple and small. Such organisms would be difficult to recognize in the fossil record, but should have been part of the Ediacara Biota, the earliest preserved macroscopic, complex animal communities. Here, we describe Ikaria wariootia gen. et sp. nov. from the Ediacara Member, South Australia, a small, simple organism with anterior/posterior differentiation. We find that the size and morphology of Ikaria match predictions for the progenitor of the trace fossil Helminthoidichnites-indicative of mobility and sediment displacement. In the Ediacara Member, Helminthoidichnites occurs stratigraphically below classic Ediacara body fossils. Together, these suggest that Ikaria represents one of the oldest total group bilaterians identified from South Australia, with little deviation from the characters predicted for their last common ancestor. Further, these trace fossils persist into the Phanerozoic, providing a critical link between Ediacaran and Cambrian animals.