Fossils of ancient sea creature studied

Jan. 18, 2013 at 2:46 PM

CHENGJIANG, China, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Scientists say examination of fossils in China has shed light on peculiar tentacled marine creatures that lived 520 million years ago.

It had been believed the creatures, Cotyledion tylodes, belonged to the cnidarian group of jellyfish-like animals, but anatomical features seen in the fossilized remains suggest the species was an early member of the group of small marine organisms called entoprocts, they said.

Entoprocts are organisms that feed by straining food particles from water, and an international research team said the fossil evidence suggests such organisms appeared on Earth much earlier than previously thought, the BBC reported.

Researchers led by Zhifei Zhang of Northwest University have dated the examples at the Chengjiang fossil site in Yunnan province in China to the Cambrian geological period, 545 to 495 million years ago.

Previously, the only uncontested fossil entoproct had been dated to the Jurassic, 205 to 142 million years ago.

The flower-like filter feeder had a goblet-shaped body with an elongated stalk, with which it "attached to exoskeletons of other organisms," Zhang said.

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