Tiny, ancient fossil shows evidence of the breath of life

November 7, 2018, University of Leicester
Ostrocod. Credit: Anna33/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA 2.5

An international team of scientists from Leicester, Yale, Oxford and London has discovered a rare and exceptionally well-preserved tiny crustacean in 430 million-years-old rocks in Herefordshire, UK. The fossil is a new species of ostracod, a relative of crabs and shrimps and is just a few millimetres long.

This particular fossil preserves not just the animal's hard shell but also its limbs, eyes, gut and gills. Examples of exceptional preservation in ostracods, in which soft-parts are also preserved in the fossil record, are exceedingly rare. The respiratory system includes five pairs of gills with canals that in life conveyed essential fluids. The implication is that a heart had likely evolved in representatives of this common group of micro-crustaceans by at least 430 million years ago

The specimen has been given the name Spiricopia aurita, from the Latin words for 'breath of life', 'abundance' and 'ears'.

Professor David Siveter, from the University of Leicester's School of Geography, Geology and the Environment, said: "This is an exciting and rare find, in which the soft parts of the animal are preserved as well as its shell. In almost all cases such fleshy structures are denied to the . It gives us a tantalising window into the palaeobiology of the animal and here yields knowledge about important organ-systems and associated metabolic activities in what is a widespread group of fossil and living arthropods."

lived in a sea that covered much of southern Britain and beyond during the Silurian period (about 443-420 million years ago). An influx of volcanic ash entombed the animals living there and they were fossilised and preserved intact within hard calcareous nodules.

The fossil was recovered from its host rock using a digital reconstruction technique that involves grinding down the actual fossil and rock, layer by wafer-thin layer, and then producing a virtual fossil. The research has been published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

Explore further: New to science: Find from 425 million years ago with body, limbs, eyes, gills and alimentary system preserved

More information: David J. Siveter et al. A well-preserved respiratory system in a Silurian ostracod, Biology Letters (2018). DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2018.0464

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5 comments

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Anonym518498
Nov 07, 2018
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Da Schneib
4 / 5 (4) Nov 07, 2018
Rock ain't virtual
Ojorf
3.3 / 5 (7) Nov 08, 2018
virtual ain't real


The same way a photo of a real thing is not the real thing, huh?
The same way the stupid face you see in the mirror is not the real face?
The same way everything you see is only light hitting your retina, not the real thing?

That explains your other comments on the forum. You can't tell what's real!

Think of it like this, a photo might not be the real thing, but it could be a fair representation of the real thing. Do you understand? Then let's move on.
A series of photos taken of the fossil, as each thin sliver is removed, can easily be reconstructed to create a virtual representation of the fossil. In 3D and in colour!
Now this is tricky, so you might have to read it a few times: The virtual is NOT real but it can show you exactly what the REAL thing looked like, really - even though it is itself NOT real!!!

Once you understand this, it will LITERALLY change your world or blow your mind or both. Just make the effort, it will be worth it.
691Boat
5 / 5 (5) Nov 08, 2018
virtual ain't real

I hope you tell the doctor discussing your MRI results with you that you need to see the real thing, not a virtual re-creation of your brain tumor.
Da Schneib
4.2 / 5 (5) Nov 08, 2018
Just a troll. Don't give it so much attention.

What's really interesting here is that not only are these ostracods amazingly successful to have made it for well over 400 million years without essentially changing form, but that we got a fossil of one including soft tissue details. This is quite a find, and will add significantly to our understanding of the evolution of life.

Incidentally, the delta O18 range during the lifetime of the ostracod is preserved in their shells, so even without the insides, the shells (which are characteristic of which of the 70,000 known species the shells came from) give valuable paleoclimate information.

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