Researchers from Germany and China have found traces of what they believe to be the origin of the human species. After the discovery was made in Shaanxi Province of China, professors now point to a tiny, sea creature as our earliest-known ancestor.
The finding merited inclusion in the journal Nature. A press release was issued by the University of Cambridge upon finding fossils of the sea creature.
It measured about a millimeter, with sack-like features prompting its locators to call it “Saccorhytus”. About 540 million years ago, this denizen of the deep had been alive and wriggling its blob-like body on the ocean floor.
The Sea Creature Up Close
A clearer image of Saccorhytus was made possible using an electron microscope and a CT scanner. The result is something straight out of a nightmare, showing that the ocean is one of the scariest frontiers of human exploration.
It is not surprising that in decades past, authors had created sinister imagery connected with the sea. Famed writer H.P. Lovecraft wrote of an otherworldly being he called Cthulhu dwelling in its deep-sea kingdom of R’lyeh, biding its time until it could conquer the surface world. Cthulhu’s minions bore both fish and human characteristics.
Now comes this miniature sea being from which humans may very well have evolved. It is not a pretty sight: a large gaping mouth, covered in a film of thin skin, its body having conical structures.
Its body is symmetrical in shape, similar to humans. The worst thing is that — unless the fossilized material had been damaged — the species seemed not to have an anus.
It would have expelled waste from the only opening in its body: that same gaping mouth. Prof. Simon Conway Morris, whose expertise lies in Evolutionary Palaeobiology and is a Fellow of St. John’s College, University of Cambridge, stated that the creature may represent “the primitive beginnings of a very diverse range of species, including ourselves.”
Ancestors of a Wide Array of Animals, Including Humans
Small creatures such as the Saccorhytus do not fossilize well but around 45 were found at the site in China. Professor Morris used the term deuterostomes to refer to the millimeter-sized ancestors who are nearly at the base of the tree of life.
From these ancestors branched out a broad range of animals such as sea urchins, starfish, and even vertebrates. As opposed to protostomes that form their mouths before their anuses, the deuterostomes develop conversely – except the specimens found were seen to have no visible anuses.
The Cambridge Fellow admits the materials found were generally crushed. Notwithstanding the delicate handling, some evidence may have been overlooked.
One thing is certain: We have been confronted with a clue as to how far we have evolved as a species. Researchers know whereof they speak that man may well have struggled in eons past under the sea, and it can make us appreciate more our current human condition.