Rather, he thinks, it is an unknown type of life form, which belonged to “an alien clade,” not certainly related to later life forms. Readers will recall that fats (sterols) were recently recovered from a 558 million-year-old fossil entity, Dickinsonia, which was previously uncertainly classified but is now classified as an animal as a result.
Although we know many well-preserved specimens of Dickinsonia, its affinities in the supposed tree of life have remained extremely controversial for more than 70 years since its description (Shu et al. 2014, Budd & Jensen 2015). This resulted in its wandering across nearly every kingdom and many phyla of life. In 1992 seven authorities among paleontologists were asked by evolutionary biologist Rudolf Raff to specify the affinities of Dickinsonia and they gave seven different answers (Raff 1996).
Dickinsonia does not seem to have the bilateral symmetry of an animal. Also, some life forms other than animals produce cholesterol, Bechly says.
After over seventy years of research on hundreds of well-preserved specimens, we still do not know with any degree of certainty if Dickinsonia has a distinct front and back end like animals, if it had differentiated dorsal and ventral sides like animals, if it was bilateral symmetric or not, if it had internal organs or not, if it could move or not, if it did actively feed or not, from which side it did grow, and how it reproduced. The very existence of two different “schools” of interpretation of Ediacaran organisms (see above) indicates that much of this interpretation is heavily biased by preconceptions, being prone to see in the fossils what is expected to be there. Now we can add to all this mess of uncertainty that Dickinsonia may have shared a lipid with (certainly unrelated) mammals, and moreover a lipid that should not have been preserved in the first place.
Altogether, there is hardly convincing evidence that Dickinsonia was an animal, but substantial evidence that it belonged to an “alien” clade of Ediacaran organisms with a distinct body plan and without a clear relationship to later forms of life. As Daley et al. (2018) recently confirmed, “BSTs from the latest Ediacaran Period (e.g., Miaohe biota, 550 Ma) are abundantly fossiliferous with algae but completely lack animals, which are also missing from other Ediacaran windows, such as phosphate deposits (e.g., Doushantuo, 560 Ma).” As we have seen before, the vastly exaggerated headlines in the popular science press, celebrating the revelation of Dickinsonia as the oldest animal, were at least a bit premature. Gunter Bechly, “Why Dickinsonia Was Most Probably Not an Ediacaran Animal” at Evolution News
Readers will remember Gunter Bechly as the German paleontologist who got erased from Wikipedia despite a distinguished record because he thinks that life forms show evidence of design. He recently classified a very interesting fossil dragonfly.
It’s good to see his name consistently appearing in a context of shared knowledge and discussion, rather than providing an inadvertent demonstration of the ignominious behavior of Darwinians in science today.
See also: Fats recovered from Ediacaran fossil, 558 mya, shows that animals then were “large,” “abundant”
Fossil dragonfly named in Mike Behe’s honor has implications for ID
Why a four-eyed fossil lizard is a problem for Darwinism (Bechly’s view)
Gunter Bechly: Decline of science? Imaged in a single paragraph