Fossils Discovered in Ontario, Canada
It's been a long time since the first dinosaurs roamed the Earth and an even longer time since the first animals ventured out of the oceans onto land. A fossil discovery in Ontario, Canada, early in 2002, has scientists believing that marine life made its appearance on land tens of millions of years sooner than they originally thought. Footprints from a prehistoric marine animal were found on land. That means there were animals checking out things on land about 500 million years ago!
Ocean Creatures Make Their Land Debut
Although there is proof that sea creatures have been alive and well for more than half a billion years, fossils of land dwellers from that far back have not yet been found. Some scientists think that the footprints found were those of a giant, woodbug-like creature trying to escape a predator. Other scientists believe that the first creature to venture onto land was most likely looking for a meal.
So What's the Big Deal?
For the longest time, scientists believed that it was sometime in the Ordovician period, which started 490 million years ago, that marine animals first came onto land. The discovery of fossilized footprints in Ontario pushes that time back to the Cambrian period, which started over 544 million years ago. During the Cambrian period, the ocean was alive with creatures now long gone.
The Ontario Fossils - Not All They're Cracked Up to Be?
Some skeptics don't think that this discovery is all that exciting. They say that the fossilized footprints could just be those of a marine creature that ventured out of the water for a bit and then quickly made its way back into the ocean. Either way, it's still a first in the history of paleontology (the study of fossils.)