Earliest human ancestor has been recently discovered by a group of researchers. The discovery comes in the form of very well preserved fossilized traces of the 540-million-year-old creature. The team that discovered the earliest human ancestor includes researchers from institutions such as UK’s University of Cambridge and China’s Northwest University.

Artist’s reconstruction of Saccorhytus coronarius, based on the original fossil finds (image source: Cambridge Universtiy; BBC)

Earliest human ancestor estimated to be 540 million years old

The research findings have been published in Nature letters. According to reports, the microscopic sea animal is 540 million years old and is believed to be the starting point for early human forms. It’s believed that the sea animal first led to fish, eventually forming human beings as we know today. According to the research group that discovered the ancestor, Saccorhytus is the most primitive example of a category of animals called “deuterostomes” which are common ancestors of a broad range of species, including vertebrates (back-boned animals). It was about a millimeter in size and thought to have lived between grains of sand on the sea bed. It was found covered with a thin, relatively flexible skin and muscles which led the researchers to conclude that the ancestor moved by wriggling.

“To the naked eye, the fossils we studied look like tiny black grains, but under the microscope the level of detail was jaw-dropping. We think that as an early deuterostome this may represent the primitive beginnings of a very diverse range of species, including ourselves. All deuterostomes had a common ancestor, and we think that is what we are looking at here”, says Prof Simon Morris from the University of Cambridge.

Remarkable insights into the first stages of evolution that led to human beings

Saccorhytus, according to the research group, gives remarkable insights into the first very stages of the evolution of a group that led to the fish, and ultimately to us. All the deuterostome groups discovered so far were from between 510 to 520 million years ago. Because they all looked so different from one another, it was initially difficult for the scientists to determine the common ancestor. The recent finding now suggests that Saccorhytus could be the common ancestor of all deuterostomes.