Home / Science / Bonanza of strange Cambrian fossils reveals some of the earliest animals on Earth

Bonanza of strange Cambrian fossils reveals some of the earliest animals on Earth

  Bonanza of Strange Cambrian Fossils Reveals Some of Earth's Earliest Animals

Artistic depiction of Qingjiang biota shows a characteristic early Cambrian life from the well-preserved fossil site.

Photo credit: Dongjing Fu

A newly discovered fossil site in China is full of bizarre, primitive species that have never been found on Earth before. The abundance of creatures includes a prickly, segmented animal known as Mud Dragon, and several jellyfish with preserved tentacles.

Paleontologists discovered this treasure trove of fossils, incredibly well preserved on the banks of the Danshui River in the south of China. Dozens of dozens of creatures date back to the Cambrian era (from 490 million to 530 million years ago), when the earth's biodiversity boomed at unprecedented rates.

Scientists collected hundreds of specimens and identified fossils of 1

01 animals. More than half of these are new species that still need to be described, the researchers reported in a new study. [Image Gallery: Cambrian Creatures: Primitive Sea Life]

"It's a great surprise to find a new deposit with such incredible wealth and abundance of species that are completely new to science," co-author Robert Gaines, a professor of geology Department of Pomona College, California reported Live Science in an email.

Researchers in China discovered the site as they explored nearby Cambrian rocks. During the lunch break at the river, the scientists noticed "a striking pattern of alternating gray and black stripes" in the rocks of the riverbank. This type of sediment pattern points to areas where once mud flows have emerged – currents that may have buried and preserved ancient organisms, Gaines explained.

The scientists began to strip the rock, and in fact they soon discovered the first site of the site Exceptional fossil remains now known as Qingjiang biota, she wrote in the study.

<img class = "pure-img lazy" big-src = "https://img.purch.com/h/1400/ aHR0cDovL3d3dy5saXZlc2NpZW5jZS5jb20vaW1hZ2VzL2kvMDAwLzEwNC84NDQvb3JpZ2luYWwvbmV3LWNhbWJyaWFuLWZvc3NpbC1iZWQtY2hpbmEtMDM / MTU1MzIwMzM0MQ ==" src = "https://img.purch.com / w / 640 / aHR0cDovL3d3dy5saXZlc2NpZW5jZS5jb20vaW1hZ2VzL2kvMDAwLzEwNC84NDQvaTAyL25ldy1jYW1icmlhbi1mb3NzaWwtYmVkLWNoaW5hLTAzPzE1NTMyMDMzNDE = "alt =" an unidentified species of Cambrian arthropods from Leanchoilia genus armlike appendages and long has sensors. [19659011] an unidentified species of the Cambrian arthropod from the Leanchoilia genus has arm-like appendages and long antennae.

Photo credits: Xingliang Zhang

Overall, the team discovered fossils of more than 50 species of unknown species.Many of the fossils – bell-shaped jellyfish, spiny worms, armored arthropods and more – retain in their preserved soft tissues, like Gills, digestive system and even the eyes, an amazing level of detail.

"Qingjiang is a new window of a different kind of early Cambrian ecosystem," said Gaines.

As in other rich fossil occurrences of well-preserved Cambrian life – the Burgess Shale deposits in Canada and the Chengjiang deposits in Yunnan province – the Qingjiang animals were quickly swallowed by mudflows and then buried in fine-grained soils, said Gaines. As sediment "cemented" around the tiny bodies, it excluded microbes and stopped the decay process.

This preserved "exquisite primary organic remains of living things like jellyfish and worms, which normally leave no fossil record," he said. [19659005InadditionjellyfishandseaanemonesaretheearliestknownspeciesintheBiotaQingjiangregionmorethanthesitesofBurgessShaleorChengjiangtheresearchers

 One of the species of China, not yet described, is an ancient jellyfish known as Cnidarian. Here are two layers of the "umbrella" and a series of tentacles visible.

One species of China not yet described is an ancient jellyfish known as Cnidarian. Here are two layers of the "umbrella" and a series of tentacles.

Photo credits: Xingliang Zhang

In addition, the condition of Qingjiang fossils is much better than other Kambrian sites. At Burgess Shale, the formation of the Rocky Mountains heated and compressed the fossils. Although anatomical details were preserved, the fossils were reshaped from their original shapes, according to Gaines. And in Chengjiang, the groundwater that flowed through the fossil reservoirs for millions of years has also carried along some of the details of their original forms.

"The Qingjiang fossils, however, are untouched and appear as they would have been In the Cambrian era, Gaines said.

The results were published online today in the journal Science (March 21) [19659023] Originally published on Live Science .

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