The holotype specimen of Daihua sanqiong. (Credit: Yang Zhao)
A fossil of a 520-million-year-old sea creature that had 18 tentacles has been found in China, a discovery that has stunned researchers.
The incredible find, known as Daihua sanqiong, perhaps a distant relative to the comb jelly, according to the scientists who excavated.
“When I first saw the fossil, I immediately noticed some features that I had seen in the comb jelly,” said Dr. Jakob Vinther, a molecular palaeobiologist, in a statement. “You could see that this repeated dark spots along each tentacle that seems to be on how comb jelly comb fossilize. The fossil also preserves rows of cilia, which can be seen, because they are huge. On the other side of the Tree of Life, in such a large ciliary structures are only found in the comb jellies.”
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In addition, Vither told the news outlet the discovery of the ancient sea-monster is a big deal, because it may have been the first animals to evolve on Earth.
However, Casey Dunn, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, Yale University, questioned the results. In an interview with Live Science, said he was “very skeptical about the conclusions they draw.” Dunn was not involved in the study.
The 18 tentacles included “fine feather-like branches with rows of large ciliary hairs,” who were used to the creature to capture prey, the statement added.
Daihua may have had more tentacles than the modern day octopuses, but it is not the only ancient creature to have that many arms. Dinomischus, a creature that lived 508 million years ago, also had 18 tentacles and a biological skeleton.
“We also realized that a fossil, Xianguangia, that we always thought it was a sea-anemone is actually a part of the comb jelly branch,” said co-author Prof. Cong Peiyun, in the statement.
In the study, the researchers demonstrate how the comb jelly evolved, it to describe the organic skeleton that during the Cambrian period, as well as the comb evolves from the tentacles and other evolutionary changes.
“With such a body transformations, I think we have some of the answers to understand why the comb jellies are so hard to figure out,” says co-author Dr. Luke Parry. “It explains why they have lost so many genes and in the possession of a morphology that we see in other animals.”
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The study was published in the scientific journal Current Biology.