Learning About the First Animals on Earth from Life at the Poles
Published:31 Oct.2022    Source:British Antarctic Survey

The fossil record places the earliest animal life on Earth at 572-602 million years ago, just as the world came out of a huge ice age, whilst molecular studies suggest an earlier origin, up to 850 million years ago. If correct, this means that animals must have survived during a time influenced by multiple global ice ages, when the whole or large parts of the planet were encased in ice, far bigger than any seen since. If animal life did arise before, or during, these extreme glacial periods it would have faced conditions like modern marine habitats found in Antarctica and the Arctic today, and required similar survival strategies. hilst to humans the polar regions seem like the most hostile environments to life, they are the perfect place to study the past and the potential for life in the universe beyond our planet.

The lead author, Dr Huw Griffiths of British Antarctic Survey (BAS), says: “This work highlights how some animals in the polar regions are incredibly adapted to life in and around the ice, and how much they can teach us about the evolution and survival of life in the past or even on other planets.” Dr Rowan Whittle, co-author on the study says: “Palaeontologists often look to the past to tell us how future climate change might look, but in this case we were looking to the coldest and most extreme habitats on the planet to help us understand the conditions that the first animals might have faced, and how modern polar creatures thrive under these extremes.”