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Mistaken fossil rewrites history of Indian subcontinent for second time

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What initially appeared to be a Dickinsonia fossil (left) began to rot and flake off the rock in just a few years (right). Credit: Gregory Retallack/Joe Meert

In 2020, a planned science conference in India did not take place during the first pandemic lockdown.

But a group of geologists already on site decided to make the most of their time and visited the Bimbetka Rock Shelter, a series of caves with ancient cave art near Bhopal, India. There they found fossils of Dickinsonia, a primitive flat, elongated animal before complex animals evolved. Dickinsonia was first discovered in India.

The animal lived 550 million years ago, and the discovery seemed perfectly settled in a surprisingly controversial age for the rocks that make up much of the Indian subcontinent.The discovery caught the attention of The New York Times, The Weather Channel and The Journal Nature As well as many Indian newspapers.

However, it turned out that the “fossil” was a case of misidentification. True culprit? bees.

Researchers from the University of Florida visited the site last year and found significant decay, which is very rare for fossils. Additionally, the site was home to giant beehives, and the trails discovered by scientists in 2020 closely resembled the remains of these large beehives.

Wrong fossil rewrites history of Indian subcontinent for the second time

Caves near Bhopal, India have prehistoric cave art. Due to the lack of fossils, it is difficult to date. Credit: Joseph Meert

“As soon as I saw it, I knew something was wrong,” said Joseph Meet, a professor of geology at the University of Florida and an expert in geology in the area. “Fossils had been detached from the rock.”

Previous fossils also lay almost vertically along the cave walls, but this did not make sense. Instead, fossils in this area should only appear flat on the floor or ceiling of the cave structure says Meert.

Meat collaborated with graduate students Samuel Kwafo and Ananya Sinha and Professor Manoj Pandit of the University of Rajasthan on the research. They documented the object’s rapid decay and photographed similar remains from a nearby beehive.The team published the false identity findings in the journal on January 19 Gondwana studiespreviously published a report of an accidental Dickinsonia fossil discovery.

Gregory Retallak, Professor Emeritus, University of Oregon, lead author Base paperhe and his co-authors say they agree with Meert’s findings that the object is actually a honeycomb.

This kind of self-correction is a fundamental principle of the scientific method. In reality, however, it is difficult for scientists to admit they are wrong, and it doesn’t happen very often.

Wrong fossil rewrites history of Indian subcontinent for the second time

Large beehives dot the grounds. After they are abandoned and decay, they temporarily resemble the primitive Dickinsonia fossils. Credit: Joseph Meert

“Scientists rarely admit their mistakes when new evidence is discovered, but it’s essential,” Retallack said in an email.

modification of fossil record Bringing the age of the rock back into question.because rock layer Due to the lack of fossils of a known age, it is difficult to date.

Meert said there continues to be evidence that the rocks are nearly a billion years old. His team used the radioactive decay of tiny crystals called zircons to date rocks from that era. Also, rock magnetic signatures, which capture information about the Earth’s magnetic field when the rocks were formed, closely match strata signatures that have been confidently dated to a billion years old.

Other scientists report findings in favor of younger age. The time period is essential to understand as it influences the evolution of life in this region and how the Indian subcontinent formed.

You might say, “It doesn’t matter if it’s 550 million years old or 1 billion years old.” Well, it makes a lot of sense,’ Meert said. And that was a time when life underwent a major shift, from very simple fossils to more complex fossils.”

“That’s why it’s so important to try to figure out the paleogeography of that time. To figure out the paleogeography, you need to know the age of the rocks,” he said.

For more information:
Joseph G. Meert et al, Stinging News: ‘Dickinsonia’ was found in Upper Vindian, India, but it’s not worth talking about. Gondwana studies (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.gr.2023.01.003

Quote: Wrong Fossil Rewrites Indian Subcontinent’s History Twice (1 February 2023) from https://phys.org/news/2023-02-mistaken-fossil-rewrites-history-indian.html to 2023 Obtained on February 1

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