Soft Body Fossils of Extinct “Lamp Shell” Digitally Reconstructed

August 17, 2005

A team of American and British scientists have identified and digitally reconstructed the first example of a fossilized brachiopod complete with its pedicle, the stalk attaching it to the sea floor, and its lophophore or feeding organ, according to a report in the journal Nature.

Brachiopods, the so called “lamp shells,” are rare today, but are some of the best known fossils from the Paleozoic era — 542 to 251 million years ago. Our knowledge of these extinct forms was previously based almost entirely on their shells, which are all that normally fossilize.

Derek Briggs, professor of geology and geophysics, and director of the Yale Institute of Biospheric Studies, with his colleagues Mark Sutton at the Imperial College, University of London, Derek Siveter at University of Oxford and Professor David Siveter at University of Leicester conducted their research on the fossil deposits in Herefordshire, U.K.

This extraordinary trove of fossil records was buried under the sea in volcanic ash that is 425 million years old. The site is unusual because it yields fossils of the entire animals, including soft body parts that the researchers then can reconstruct digitally.

“This specimen is particularly interesting as several smaller brachiopods have attached themselves to its shell, two of them also preserving pedicles,” said Briggs.

The brachiopod belongs to an extinct group, and this work reveals that its pedicle differs from that on living forms. Previous assumptions that extinct brachiopods were very similar to modern examples may thus be too simplistic.

Other specimens of interest from the volcanic ash at Herefordshire that were recently reconstructed by the team include an ancient sea spider and the oldest fossil animal that is “definitively male.”

Source: Yale University

Explore further: Family of scaffold web spiders increased with 20 percent following discovery of 43 new species

Related Stories

3-D printed fish fossil may reveal origin of human teeth

September 30, 2016

Three-dimensional prints of a 400 million year old fish fossil from around Lake Burrinjuck in southeast Australia reveal the possible evolutionary origins of human teeth, according to new research by The Australian National ...

Recommended for you

Self-sealing syringe prevents blood loss in hemophilic mice

October 28, 2016

(—For people whose blood does not clot appropriately, such as those with hemophilia, diabetes, or cancer, getting an injection or blood draw with a hypodermic needle is not a trivial matter. Because the needle ...

Closer look reveals tubule structure of endoplasmic reticulum

October 28, 2016

(—A team of researchers from the U.S. and the U.K. has used high-resolution imaging techniques to get a closer look at the endoplasmic reticulum (ET), a cellular organelle, and in so doing, has found that its structure ...

Gaia spies two temporarily magnified stars

October 28, 2016

While scanning the sky to measure the position of over one billion stars in our Galaxy, ESA's Gaia satellite has detected two rare instances of stars whose light was temporarily boosted by other celestial objects passing ...

Changing semiconductor properties at room temperature

October 28, 2016

It's a small change that makes a big difference. Researchers have developed a method that uses a one-degree change in temperature to alter the color of light that a semiconductor emits. The method, which uses a thin-film ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.