Mysterious Leaf-like Creatures Are Actually Animals

Posted: Aug 9 2018, 7:34am CDT | by , Updated: Aug 9 2018, 10:59am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

Mysterious Leaf-like Creatures are Actually Animals
Artist’s reconstruction of Stromatoveris. Credit: J. HOYAL CUTHILL

New analysis suggests that half-billion-year-old Ediacaran organisms were animals.

At first glance, weird Ediacaran creatures look like leaves or fossilized plants, but they are actually a new form of an animal.

Organisms from Ediacaran period have puzzled scientists for decades. They are the first large and complex soft-bodied organisms in the fossil record that populated the Earth around 635 to 541 million years ago but their position on the evolutionary tree was unknown. It was even impossible to tell whether they belonged to algae, fungi or an entirely different form of life. But now, researchers have found key evidence that the Ediacaran organisms were actually animals.

“It looks very likely (the Ediacaran organisms) are animals.” Simon Conway Morris, a paleontologist at the University of Cambridge, said.

Ediacaran fossils were first discovered in1946 in South Australia’s Ediacara Hills. Since then, about 200 different types of creatures have been discovered in ancient rocks across the world. These creatures are often assumed to have appeared and spread suddenly during the Cambrian Explosion but they were unlike anything else that has been described. Although researchers have been seeing evidence for these prehistoric organisms for quite a long time, these creatures were never classified and little is known about how they relate to modern species.

Researchers have long thought that they were possibly some of the earliest animals to exist on Earth but it was difficult for them to be entirely sure.

To verify the identity of their identity, paleontologists analyzed more than 200 fossils of a 518-million-year-old marine species named Stromatoveris psygmoglena. The four-inch tall Stromatoveris fossils were unearthed in Yunnan province in southwestern China where they have been preserved for hundreds of millions of years. Researchers found that stromatoveris was made up of several repeated, branched fronds with a fractal internal architecture and this structure do not exist in any living animal group. Instead, they belong to a new branch in the animal evolutionary tree, between the sponges and complex animals with a digestive cavity like worms, mollusks, and vertebrates.

Paleontologist Jennifer Hoyal Cuthill at the Tokyo Institute of Technology says. “This branch, the Petalonamae, could well be its own phylum, and it apparently lacks any living descendants.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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