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FOR KIDS: Have shell, will travel

Fossilized tracks left by early land-dwelling animals reveal they brought shells ashore

Many modern animals, like crabs, live in shells and carry their homes around with them. Picture one of these animals in your mind, and you may have some idea of what the first land-dwelling animals looked like. After studying strange marks that accompany some sets of ancient fossil footprints, scientists recently suggested that the oldest creatures to crawl out of the ocean probably wore shells.

Scientists have long known that life on Earth began in the sea. The first vertebrates — animals with backbones — came crawling out of the water between 385 million and 376 million years ago. But those animals weren’t the first creatures to come ashore, says paleontologist James W. Hagadorn of Amherst College in Massachussetts.

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