The Atlantic

A 558-Million-Year-Old Mystery Has Been Solved

Scientists have finally confirmed that a weird ribbed oval called Dickinsonia is an animal.
Source: Ilya Bobrovskiy / Australian National University

Around 558 million years ago, a strange … something dies on the floor of an ancient ocean. Its body, if you could call it that, is a two-inch-long oval with symmetric ribs running from its midline to its fringes. It is quickly buried in sediment, and gradually turns into a fossil.

While it sits in place, petrifying, waiting, the world around it changes. The Earth’s landmasses merge into a single supercontinent before going their separate ways. In the ocean, ; for the first time, the world is home to eyes, shells, and mouths. Living things , coating it first in thin films of moss—finally unearths the fossilized ribbed oval from its resting place.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic4 min readPolitics
The Supreme Court Justice Who Forever Changed Affirmative Action
Justice Lewis Powell’s ruling in the 1978 case Regents v. Bakke buoyed affirmative action—but in the process, it transformed how colleges think about race and equality in admissions.
The Atlantic3 min readScience
What Manatees Do During Hurricane Season
On Wednesday afternoon, Hurricane Michael slammed into the western coast of Florida. It was, as my colleague Robinson Meyer described, “one of the most damaging and powerful storms ever to wallop the continental United States.” Several neighborhoods
The Atlantic6 min readRelationships & Parenting
When a DNA Test Reveals Your Daughter Is Not Your Biological Child
As DNA-testing companies sell millions of kits, they’ve started to rearrange families. The tests have reunited long-lost cousins and helped adoptees find their birth parents, donor-conceived kids their sperm donors. They have also, in some cases, unc