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Cambrian era “penis worm” fossil ancestor of all living arthropods?

File:Pambdelurion whittingtoni.JPG
artist’s reconstruction of Pambdelurion/Apokryltaros

Seems like a bold claim re this 520 mya fossil, from Rasmus Kragh Jakobsen at ScienceNordic:

A new study has described the mouth apparatus of a half billion year old fossilised carnivore, the Pambdelurion, in fine detail for the first time.

In doing so, scientists have discovered that this primitive animal, discovered in Sirius Passet in Greenland, is the common ancestor of all living arthropod animals today.

Arthropods make up 90 per cent of all living animals and include insects, scorpions, mites, and crustaceans.

In the new study, Vinther and colleagues describe Pambdelurion’s mouth apparatus as a circle of needle sharp parts arranged around a central hole, which is similar to that of the present-day penis worm. More.

We are then invited to consider a history of the era according to which “New mouth initiated an arms race among carnivores,” “Animals developed new defence mechanisms,” and the “Penis worm is the Holy Grail of palaeontology.”

Maybe. Sounds like a Darwinian screenplay without a cast.

The thing is, as we learn more about past eras in Earth’s history, evolution is becoming a history rather than a metaphysic. It is early days yet. A single further discovery or two could change this whole scenario. Even then, reasonable interpretations will vary.

It all feels so different from the Age of Darwin when breathless media releases proclaimed that some researchers had once again “proven” the Great Leader right or affirmed his doubts. Or whatever. But who cares?

That said, Pambdelurion is a great find.

See also: Fossilized embryos from over half a billion years ago (Cambrian era)

What the fossils told us in their own words


Suzan Mazur’s new book: Royal Society Public Evolution Summit

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