Ancient blob-like creature of the deep revealed by scientists

Aug 04, 2010
3D model of ancient sea creature

(PhysOrg.com) -- A unique blob-like creature that lived in the ocean approximately 425 million years ago is revealed in a 3D computer model in research published today in the journal Biology Letters. The model is helping researchers to understand what primitive species on early Earth looked like and how they might have evolved into the types of creatures that are on Earth today.

The scientists, from Imperial College London, have developed a detailed 3D model of the only known fossilised specimen in the world of a creature called Drakozoon. The specimen was found by one of the team approximately 6 years ago in the Herefordshire Lagerstätte, one of England’s richest deposits of soft-bodied fossils.

The research reveals that Drakozoon was a cone-shaped, blob-like creature with a hood and it probably had a leathery exterior skin. It appears to have survived in the ocean by attaching itself to hard surfaces such as rock. It was approximately 3mm long, and used filament-bearing tentacles to catch and eat organic particles in seawater. It pulled its hood down over its body for protection against predators, pulling it back again to expose its tentacles when danger passed.

Dr Mark Sutton, from the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London, says:

“Excitingly, our 3D model brings back to life a creature that until recently no one knew even existed, and provides us with a window into the life of Drakozoon. We think this tiny blob of jelly survived by clinging onto rocks and hard shelled creatures, making a living by plucking microscopic morsels out of seawater. By looking at this primitive creature, we also get one tantalising step closer to understanding what the earliest creatures on Earth looked like.”

Scientists have debated what the first relatives of all creatures on Earth may have resembled and how their bodies evolved. Some scientists think the creatures had repeated units, similar to a caterpillar with its many segments and legs, while others think that their bodies were structured in more free-form ways, similar to slugs.

In today’s study, the researchers analysed their 3D model and discovered that Drakozoon had eight deep ridges on either side of its body. They suggest that these deep ridges are the genetic remnants from a time when Drakozoon had a body made of repeated units, supporting the theory that the earliest creatures on Earth were also made of repeated units.

The study shows that Drakozoon was an early member of a major group of invertebrate species called lophophorates. The best known lophophorates are the brachiopods, a type of spineless shellfish that are some of the most common fossils from the Silurian Period. The team found their Drakozoon specimen clinging onto the fossilised shell of a brachiopod.

The researchers created their 3D model by physically slicing a fossil into 200 pieces. These pieces were individually photographed and the images were fed into a computer, which generated the 3D model for analysis by the scientists.

The researchers say it is very rare to find ancient soft bodied creatures intact because they normally decompose before they can be preserved in sediment. The soft bodied Drakozoon was perfectly preserved because it lived in an area that was covered in volcanic ash, following a volcanic eruption that instantly entombed it and other living with it, keeping it intact for 425 million years.

Explore further: Earlier Stone Age artifacts found in Northern Cape of South Africa

More information: Mark Sutton, Derek Briggs, Derek Siveter, David Siveter, "A soft-bodied lophophorate from the Silurian of England", Biology Letters, Wednesday 4 August 2010

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User comments : 6

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LoveKraft
5 / 5 (2) Aug 04, 2010
this looks very much like a shoggoth!
zealous
5 / 5 (1) Aug 04, 2010
I know I was reading this hoping for some lovecraftian creature only to find out its a barnicle without a shell
mabarker
1 / 5 (5) Aug 06, 2010
Wait a minute! This sponge blob is dated "425 m.y.o." [ha - yeah, right] making it far too late to be the mysterious 635 m.y.o. proto-sponge with all the tools needed to build a human (Adam Mann in Nature News, 4 Aug. 2010 - 'Researchers wring evolutionary clues from gene sequence' - incredible reading. Mann gives us not an explanation, but divination, ascribing unknown powers of evolution operating in a window of time).
Meanwhile, back in the real world, science is supposed to be about evidence, observation, data, testability, repeatability, proof - not the hollow thinking of ideologues.
There is a very real lack of evidence for transitional forms at the base of the fossil rcd (see Origin, ch 10). It was unsolved in darwin's day & remains unsolved today. All we're getting is non-explanations as to HOW this complexity emerged. The standard 'explanation' is: it exists - therefore it evolved.
Ethelred
5 / 5 (3) Aug 08, 2010
"425 m.y.o." [ha - yeah, right]
Yes right.
[ha - yeah, right] making it far too late to be the mysterious 635 m.y.o. proto-sponge with all the tools needed to build a human
Note that he didn't call it a proto-sponge so that is irrelevant.
Mann gives us not an explanation, but divination,
Perhaps. Have yet to read it. I suspect that you didn't read it either since you seem to quote mine and not read.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, science is supposed to be about evidence, observation, data, testability, repeatability, proof - not the hollow thinking of ideologues.
So what evidence to support your beliefs? Where is some evidence to show the world is young. To support the Great Flood. And I mean real evidence not fantasies about flood stories.

However genetics IS evidence, observation, data, testable, repeatable and pretty much proof no ideology.

You however are nothing but religious ideology.

More truth to come
Ethelred
5 / 5 (3) Aug 08, 2010
There is a very real lack of evidence for transitional forms at the base of the fossil rcd
At the base yes. Not surprising considering how few fossils there are and how VERY few can be expected of soft bodied animals.
(see Origin, ch 10)
Do you mean Origins of Species? You do know that is a just bit out of date? I guess not. You know so little.
It was unsolved in darwin's day & remains unsolved today
Only for the beginning. Lots of transitions have been found since Darwin's day. Some even exist right now.
. All we're getting is non-explanations as to HOW this complexity emerged.
Bull. I have explained it. To you even. Multiple times at that.
The standard 'explanation' is: it exists - therefore it evolved.
Evolution happens. It cannot not happen so assuming that it is involved in the fossil evidence is not speculation. It is reason based on evidence.

Evidence, something you have none of and paleontology has mega tons.

Now go run away again.

Ethelred
Ethelred
not rated yet Aug 08, 2010
I know I was reading this hoping for some lovecraftian creature


Would you settle for a Lovecraftian book for geeks?

The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross has just come out. The third in his Laundry series.

Ethelred