The fossil, from Chengjiang in southern China, is of a probable ‘chancelloriid’, a group of bizarre, balloon-shaped animals with an outer skeleton of defensive spines. The animal was flattened during the fossilization process so that it looks like a squashed bird’s nest.
There are also several enigmatic fossils that don’t seem to fit in with anything living today, and amongst these are the chancelloriids.
These fossils provide an unprecedented view of life in Earth’s ancient seas.
Tom Hearing, a PhD student from the Department of Geology who is working on the skeletons of Cambrian fossils, added: “We usually only get the broken-up remains of ancient animal skeletons. With this specimen we can see how all the different parts of the skeleton stuck together. It tells us much about how early animals functioned, how they might have interacted with other animals, and how they might have protected themselves from predators.”
Here’s the abstract:
Nidelric pugio gen. et sp. nov. from the Cambrian Series 2 Heilinpu Formation, Chengjiang Lagerstätte, Yunnan Province, China, is an ovoid, sac-like metazoan that bears single-element spines on its surface. N. pugio shows no trace of a gut, coelom, anterior differentiation, appendages, or internal organs that would suggest a bilateral body plan. Instead, the sac-like morphology invites comparison with the radially symmetrical chancelloriids. However, the single-element spines of N. pugio are atypical of the complex multi-element spine rosettes borne by most chancelloriids and N. pugio may signal the ancestral chancelloriid state, in which the spines had not yet fused. Alternatively, N. pugio may represent a group of radial metazoans that are discrete from chancelloriids. Whatever its precise phylogenetic position, N. pugio expands the known disparity of Cambrian scleritome-bearing animals, and provides a new model for reconstructing scleritomes from isolated microfossils. – Xianguang Hou, Mark Williams, David J. Siveter, Derek J. Siveter, Sarah Gabbott, David Holwell, Thomas H. P. Harvey. A chancelloriid-like metazoan from the early Cambrian Chengjiang Lagerstätte, China. Scientific Reports, 2014; 4: 7340 DOI: 10.1038/srep07340
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