Fossils of Enigmatic Sea Creatures Surface
by Sid Perkins
New fossil finds reveal that an enigmatic seafloor dweller first described more than a decade ago was armored and much larger than its modern-day kin. Cotyledion tylodes had a goblet-shaped body that surrounded a U-shaped gut (dark feature in fossil at left; arrows denote flow of food), and the animal spent its life anchored to the seafloor or to hard objects that had settled there, such as the molted exoskeletons of trilobites (artist’s representation at right). C. tylodes was first described in 1999 based on a couple of fragmentary fossils unearthed from 520-million-year-old rocks in southern China.
Previously, some scientists have proposed that the tentacled creatures were related to cnidarians, a group that contains jellyfish. But analyses of the new fossils—hundreds of well-preserved specimens extracted from the same ancient rocks—reveal that the animals belong to a group called entoprocts, aquatic creatures that attach to surfaces and filter their food from passing currents, the researchers report online today in Scientific Reports…
(read more: Science NOW)
(images: Zhifei Zhang et al., Scientific Reports)