Scientists DISCOVER 430 Million-Year-Old Sea Cucumber

Rodiano Bonacci
Aprile 11, 2019

Life reconstruction of Sollasina cthulhu.

Cthulhu is calling from the ancient depths - and this time, researchers are only too happy to speak its name.

Researchers named the giant sea cucumber, Sollasina cthulhu, after the H.P. Lovecraft monster "Cthulhu".

The research was published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Scientists believe it used these long limbs, or "tube feet", to capture food and crawl over the seafloor.

The ancient specimen may be small in stature, but according to scientists it may have projected a much scarier image to other sea creatures. The fossil was discovered in Herefordshire Lagerstatte in the United Kingdom, that particular site is a trove of ancient sea animal fossils.

In order to verify where Sollasina cthulhu belongs on the evolutionary family tree, the researchers performed a computerized analysis which confirmed the fossil was a type of ancient sea cucumber, rather than a sea urchin. "With the aid of high-resolution physical-optical tomography, we describe the species in 3D, revealing internal elements of the water vascular system that were previously unknown in this group and, indeed, in almost all fossil echinoderms".

Palaeontologists from the USA and the United Kingdom worked together to grind away the fossil, photographing it from hundreds of different angles to then digitally reconstruct the animal as a 3D model.

"This involved painstakingly grinding away the fossil, a few hundredths of a millimeter as a time, taking photographs of each exposed surface with a digital camera". This results in hundreds of slice images, which are digitally reconstructed into a "virtual fossil".

"We carried out a number of analyses to work out whether Sollasina was more closely related to sea cucumbers or sea urchins". In addition, it used tentacles for movement. Living echinoderms have feet that are naked, in ophiocistioids the feet are plated.

The team says that the research shows that ophiocistiodis diverged from the line leading to modern sea cucumbers.

A team of worldwide palaeontologists led by the Oxford University Museum of Natural History have discovered the extremely well-preserved remains of an ancient relative of the marine invertebrates known as sea cucumbers. Other authors are Jeffrey Thompson of University College London, David Siveter of the University of Leicester, Derek Siveter of Oxford, and Mark Sutton of Imperial College London.

The slices of the ancient cucumber - as well as the 3D reconstruction of its living form - are now being held at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

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