Science

The return of Cthulhu - the small sea critter

The return of Cthulhu - the small sea critter”

Researchers in the United Kingdom and USA, have discovered an ancient ancestor of modern sea cucumbers that bears a resemblance to the many-tentacled Great Old One in the horror fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, though at a more manageable scale than its namesake.

While the fossil is only 3cm wide (just over 1 inch), researchers say "its many long tentacles would have made it appear quite monstrous to other small sea creatures alive at the time".

The weird sea creature you see here was recently discovered as an ancient fossil and is a species related to modern sea cucumbers. It was found in the Herefordshire Lagerstätte in the United Kingdom, a site that has proven to be a trove of fossilized ancient sea animals.

An global team of researchers, including minds from Yale, Imperial College London, Oxford, and other institutions, have identified a new species of sea creature that crawled along the sea floor hundreds of millions of years ago. To achieve the 3D reconstruction, the team had to grind a layer of the fossil away and take photos of each stage. This produced hundreds of slice images, which were digitally reconstructed as a "virtual fossil". Not five or ten arms, mind you, but a full 45 individual limbs that scientists now believe it used to crawl across the ocean bottom in search of food and safety.

Palaeontologists have discovered the fossilised remains of a tentacled, spider-like sea creature now named "cthulhu". The excellent preservation of fossil specimens is owed to the entombed of Silurian (443-416 million years ago) marine life in volcanic ash, causing calcite precipitation. The process happened so fast that soft parts didn't have time to decay, becoming preserved as sparry calcite.

'To our surprise, the results suggest it was an ancient sea cucumber.

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.

The creature is a new echinoderm, which is a group that includes the sea cucumbers, sea urchins, and sea stars.

That's how the researchers were able to discern Sollasina's internal water vascular system and determine it is more closely related to sea cucumbers rather than to sea urchins.

The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History Invertebrate Paleontology Division, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, the John Fell Oxford University Press Research Fund, the Natural Environment Research Council, and the Leverhulme Trust supported the research.



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