The first thing to walk on land

There’s an old Spanish poem by Jose Asuncion Silva, which in our translation goes :

Old things, sad and faded, without voice or colour// know secrets of long dead epochs// of lives which no one conserves in memory…. and which when touched and looked at by unquiet men// tell in passing anguished voices//stories unusual of past times.

Well, that’s the gist of it. It tells of someone going through an old attic and finding things which had been put down centuries before. Have you ever looked at an old coin in a museum and wondered what the Roman soldier was thinking when he dropped it-the last thought to catch on the coin before today? Even finding an old video cassette or calculator in a garage can bring back the you of another time, before you had imagined anything that is happening now.

If that’s true for us, and things lost only a few decades or centuries ago, how much harder it is to imagine the life of something that died 425 million years ago. We read in Nature Briefings of the discovery of the very first animal which walked on land in what is now Scotland. (see link) It was a bit like a millipede, although apparently it wasn’t a millipede. But read it for yourself, there are some excellent photos as well with this one.

But what happened on the day it died? Was the weather warm and sunny, or overcast with showers?What day of the week was it-a Thursday? Were this creature’s plans for the weekend permanently ruined by The Grim Reaper? If it were brought back to life today, would it resent the fact that we vertebrates have claimed all the credit for conquering the land, even though that only happened fifty million years later?

Magazines like Nature and Science and their many competitors are filled with learned accounts of fossils and finds, bits of pterosaur and bits of pottery. We must respect their tireless examinations, exhaustive detaillizations, and voluminous expositions. But sometimes take time to step back and try to imagine the lives of forgotten soldiers or things that swam in warm vanished seas.

nature summary:

An inch-long critter similar to a millipede looks to be the oldest animal known to have lived on land. Fossil imprints of Kampecaris obanensis from the island of Kerrera in Scotland have been radiometrically dated to around 425 million years ago, in the Silurian period. The arthropod probably fed on decomposing plants on a lakeside. Even earlier land animals, from the Cambrian era, are known to have existed, but only indirectly, from their tracks. CBC | 3 min read
Source: Historical Biology paper


#kampecarisobansensis #joseasuncionsilva #silurian

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