A University of Bristol research team recently discovered a series of startling fossils in China. The recent discovery of these fossils has shed new light on dozens of species, many of them previously a mystery to the scientific community.

Among these finds was a 518-million-year-old fossilized sea creature with 18 tentacles near its mouth. Dubbed the Daihua sanqiong, the animal shared numerous anatomical features with the modern comb jelly, suggesting that it might be a distant relative.

According to LiveScience, paleobiologist and lead researcher Jakob Vinther,”to make a long story short, we were able to reconstruct the whole lineage of comb jellies from the anatomical comparisons between fossils and contemporary specimen.” Since comb jellies are thought to be among the first beings ever to evolve on Earth, the fact that this fossil predates them is huge news.

Vinther is thus confident that this discovery will shed substantial light on the bizarre comb jellies, recently found to have a moving anus, and named thusly due to the combed rows of cilia they use to traverse the oceans. “With fossils, we have been able to find out what the bizarre comb jellies originated from,” said Vinther. “Even though we now can show they came from a very sensible place, it doesn’t make them any less weird.”

Comb jellies are thought to be among the very first animals to evolve, according to the University of Bristol. The team of scientists — which includes researchers from China’s Yunnan University and London’s Natural History Museum — compared this fossil with those of similar skeletal structures and established that they all evolved from the same ancestor.

The fossil was uncovered in mudstone south of Kunming in the Yunnan Province in southern China by co-author of the study, Professor Hou Xianguang. This isn’t the first biological discovery found in this particular region, either, as numerous well-preserved fossils have been uncovered here in the last 30 years.

It was named the Daihua sanqiong after the Dai tribe in Yunnan and “hua” which means “flower” in Mandarin and relates to the fossil’s flower-like shape. The animal’s 18 tentacles are all fine and feather-like, with rows of large cilia adorning the exterior.

“When I first saw the fossil, I immediately noticed some features I had seen in comb jellies,” said Vinther. “You could see these repeated dark stains along each tentacle that resembles how comb jelly combs fossilize. The fossil also preserves rows of cilia, which can be seen because they are huge.”

The scientific record made it immediately apparent that this cilia-laden animal was related to its modern counterpart. “Across the Tree of Life, such large ciliary structures are only found in comb jellies,” he said.

Read more: https://allthatsinteresting.com/daihua-sanqiong


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