The film "Were These The First Animals?" is an extremely deep dive into the development of the planet's first animals or complex life forms around 540 million years ago during the Cambrian Period.
Technically, the first live organisms on Earth evolved as early as 1 billion years ago or earlier. However, these were simple, single-celled or multicellular organisms that lived in the oceans.
But around 540 million years ago, there was a period of rapid evolution and diversification of life on Earth, now known as the Cambrian Explosion. Many complex organisms emerged, including many of the major animal groups that still exist today.
One notable example is the Ediacara Biota, a diverse group of ancient organisms that lived approximately 560 to 540 million years ago during the Ediacaran Period. The informal term "Garden of Ediacara" is used to describe the rich diversity of these organisms, which included a variety of strange and unusual life forms, many of which had no modern equivalent.
The Ediacara Biota is named after the Ediacara Hills in South Australia, where the first known fossils of these organisms were discovered in 1946 by Australian geologist and conservationist Reg Sprigg. Since then, Ediacara fossils have been found in many other parts of the world, including Russia, Canada, China, and Namibia.
Ediacara organisms were some of the earliest known complex life forms on Earth, and their fossils provide essential insights into the early evolution of life on our planet. Many Ediacara organisms had soft bodies and no hard shells or skeletons, making them difficult to preserve as fossils. As a result, our understanding of the Ediacara Biota is still limited, and much of what we know is based on inference and interpretation.
For example, we are still determining how they fed themselves. There are theories that they were heterotrophs, obtaining their nutrients by consuming other organisms. They might have been predators or even scavengers depending on where they lived. There are also some theories that some Ediacara organisms used a form of photosynthesis to create energy from the environment.
Though we may never solve these questions, ongoing research continues to try and shed light on these mysterious and fascinating ancient life forms. Discovering more about these ancient organisms can provide important insights into the early evolution of life on our planet and help scientists understand how life on Earth has changed and diversified over time.
Directed by: Pete Kelly