New discoveries in evolutionary science suggest that humans may originally have come from worms, which gives us an excellent opportunity to further stress the importance of worms, not only to our planet, but now to our evolutionary origins as a species. This article will take a simpler approach to a matter that can often be bogged down in scientific terminology, so that our readers can get a basic understanding of this finding and what is going on.
On the tail end of March, BBC reported that fossils of a worm-like animal have been found on the ocean floor which are more than 500 million years old. The worm in question, known as Ikaria wariootia, is incredibly tiny in size, being a maximum of 7mm (roughly 0.3-inches) in length, which amounts to the size of a grain of rice. The worms have openings on either end of their bodies, which we assume is their mouth and anus.
According to BBC, these worms are now the “earliest example” we have of a bilateral organism, which simply put, is a creature whose left and right sides of their body would perfectly mirror each other if they were cut down the middle. It is this development of bilateral symmetry which has proven to be vital to the evolution of all kinds of animal life, and has given scientists insight into why we have evolved the way we have. By having a symmetrical body, an organism is able to organize its body in a far more rational way (in terms of its inner organs and systems) and move more purposefully as well. Of course, we can argue now that a lot of humans are not technically bilaterally symmetrical, but that development has been a product of years of mutation, as well as self-inflicted alterations (such as smoking or injury) that have changed our bodies.
That being said, it is this worm which now acts as the foundation for bilateral symmetry in the animal kingdom, until we find an older example, that is. Since then, most of the animal kingdom has evolved around this principle. The dinosaurs were symmetrical. Insects, worms, humans, dogs, cats and elephants are all bilaterally symmetrical. The excavation of these fossils actually began 15 years ago when very small burrows of unknown creatures were discovered in Australia. It wasn’t until two professors at UC Riverside took laser scans of the fossils that they discovered the worms that had lived there. And what an important discovery they have made!
In conclusion, the discovery of Ikaria wariootia tells us about our evolutionary origins in terms of how our body plans were developed. It is difficult to know if we are directly related to the worms, as the research on them is still fairly new. Nonetheless, it is always exciting to discovery new creatures through the study and excavation of fossils, as it makes us wonder at how the human species came to be in the first place.