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And now for something completely different: The ancient balloon animal

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File:A small cup of coffee.JPG It’s ridiculous that no one got to commercialize this before it went extinct. Shakes one’s faith.

Nidelric pugio, + 9 cm/Derek J Siveter

From ScienceDaily:

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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8 Replies to “And now for something completely different: The ancient balloon animal

  1. 1
    Andre says:

    Unguided evolution is the best explanation for the diversity of life, the fact that these animals don’t fit into any objective nested hierarchy is exactly what was predicted!

    This does not shake our faith in unguided evolution, it confirms it!

  2. 2
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Andre

    Unguided evolution is the best explanation for the diversity of life, the fact that these animals don’t fit into any objective nested hierarchy is exactly what was predicted!

    I’m finally starting to understand the genius that is evolution. If you ignore of all the animals that don’t fit, then the nested hierarchy works perfectly every time. Plus, evolution already predicted that we should ignore the evidence, so it was 100% correct again!

    Editing the abstract slightly …

    The single-element spines of N. pugio are atypical … and N. pugio may signal … Alternatively, N. pugio may represent … Whatever …

    That sounds so important. Plus, it’s Quantified! “The single-element spines” — not double or triple. We’ve got some real math going on there. And the great thing about evolution is that we can always have confidence that the conclusion, “whatever”, fits with mathematical precision in almost every situation.

    It’s ridiculous that no one got to commercialize this before it went extinct.

    🙂 There’s a lot they could have done with balloon animals. The birthday party market alone would have been a blockbuster.

  3. 3
    Mung says:

    Why didn’t your designer give everyone a balloon?

  4. 4
    Silver Asiatic says:

    LOL – there’s only one animal with a balloon so there is no evidence of design in nature.

  5. 5
    Andre says:

    Mung

    Everybody did not get a balloon because the designer is a jerk

  6. 6
    Edward says:

    Sez you. I got my balloon, the more I eat the bigger it gets.

  7. 7
    Mung says:

    I think the designer is just selfish.

    An unselfish designer would let us poof toilet paper into existence at our whim.

  8. 8
    Robert Byers says:

    A YEC would say it was crushed only because it was a sudden pressure and this led to instant fossilization. no a slow, critter caught in the mud, fossilization over decades and centuries.

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