Mistakenly identified fossil revealed Indian subcontinent formed later
A mistakenly identified fossil has recently rewritten the history of the Indian subcontinent for the second time, explained the University of Florida.
Two years ago, a group of geologists discovered a fossilized specimen of Dickinsonia, a flat, elongated, and simple mammal that existed before more complicated animals developed. It was the first time ever that Dickinsonia had been found in India. But it turned out that it was a bee.
As said in the release, when the University of Florida researchers visited the location last year, they found an object that appeared to have severely decayed—quite rare for a fossil. In addition, the area is covered in enormous bee nests, and the mark discovered by scientists in 2020 closely matched the remains of these enormous hives.
“As soon as I looked at it, I thought something’s not right here,” said Joseph Meert, a UF professor of geology and expert on the area's geology. “The fossil was peeling off the rock.”
Meert collaborated on the investigation with his graduate students Samuel Kwafo, Ananya Singha, and University of Rajasthan professor Manoj Pandit. Their study was published in Gondwana Research on January 19.
Zircon was used
As Meert suggested, the data points to the rocks' age being closer to one billion years. Meert and his team used the radioactive disintegration of zircon (tiny crystals) to determine real dating. Additionally, the rocks' magnetic signature, which records details about the Earth's magnetic field at the time of their formation, closely resembles formations with a billion years' worth of certainty.
“You might say, ‘Okay, well, what's the big deal if they are 550 million or a billion years old?’ Well, there are lots of implications,” Meert said.
“One has to do with the paleogeography at the time, what was happening to continents, where the continents were located, how they were assembled. And it was a period when life was going through a major change, from very simple fossils to more complex fossils.”
“So trying to figure out the paleogeography at the time is very, very important. And in order to figure out the paleogeography, we have to know the age of the rocks,” he said.
A recent report of Dickinsonia tenuis ‘hiding in plain sight’ at the Bhimbetka rock shelters in rocks of the Maihar sandstone (Upper Vindhyan) has important implications for paleogeography and the age of the Upper Vindhyan. We visited the site in December 2022 and found the evidence for Dickisonia lacking. The ‘fossil’ resembles decayed parts of modern Apis dorsata (giant honeybees) hives. In this contribution, we note the structural similarities between “Dickinsonia” and honey and pollen stores of recently decayed bee nests. A closer view of the photos provided in the original paper reveals honeycombed structures within the purported fossil. We also note that the fossil is not located on a bedding surface and is not a part of the rock, but rather is attached as a ‘tracery of waxy material’ above the surface. The remaining paleogeographic conclusions of that paper are also negated by this new discovery
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