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Sponge-Like Fossil Half a Billion Years Old Discovered in China

Sponge-Like Fossil Half a Billion Years Old Discovered in China

The new species of fossil chancelloriid: an enigmatic animal from the Cambrian Period with a tube-like body, "minotaur-horn" spines, and doughnut-shaped scars. (Derek Siveter/Tom Harvey/Peiyun Cong/University of Leicester)

By    |   Wednesday, 20 June 2018 05:25 PM

The fossil of a strange, sponge-like animal that lived half a billion years ago has been discovered in China.

The large-boned creature belongs to a group of animals known as chancelloriids, spiny tube-shaped animals that went extinct shortly after they came to being during the Cambrian evolutionary period, the University of Leicester reported.

Although they resemble sponges, scientists call any such similarity superficial.

The discovery was made by an international team of scientists hailing from the University of Leicester, the University of Oxford, and Yunnan University, China, who published their findings in the Royal Society journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The newly discovered species, named Allonnia nuda, was uncovered in China’s Chengjiang deposits of Yunnan Province, and was 20 inches or more in length.

"The Chengjiang deposits of Yunnan Province continue to reveal surprising new fossils we could hardly have imagined. Together, they provide a crucial snapshot of life in the oceans during the Cambrian explosion," said Dr. Peiyun Cong, from the Yunnan Key Laboratory for Palaeobiology, Kunming, China, in a University of Leicester news release.

Some believe this new species provides a link to today’s sponges.

"Fossil chancelloriids were first described around 100 years ago, but have resisted attempts to place them in the tree of life,” added Dr. Tom Harvey, from the University of Leicester's School of Geography, Geology and the Environment. "We argue that their pattern of body growth supports a link to sponges, reinvigorating an old hypothesis. We're not suggesting that it's 'case closed' for chancelloriids, but we hope our results will inspire new research into the nature of the earliest animals."

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The fossil of a strange, sponge-like animal that lived half a billion years ago has been discovered in China.
sponge, fossil, half, billion, years
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2018-25-20
Wednesday, 20 June 2018 05:25 PM
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