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The discovery in China of an ancient sea creature with 18 tentacles around its mouth has helped solve a modern mystery about the origins of a widespread family of marine animals.
The fossil with 18 tentacles found in China is 518 million years old and belongs to the Daihua sanqiong species, previously unknown. It is a “missing link in evolution” that reveals the origin of the ctenophores, says the author of the study published in Current Biology, Jakob Vinther, of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.
The so-called Cambrian explosion, a period in which evolution began to accelerate, occurred approximately 520-540 million years ago. It was after this explosion when the ancestors of worms, insects, fish and other vertebrates were formed. Until then, it was believed that primitive organisms such as hydras and sponges were the basis of evolution.
However, the discovery of the fossil that retained the imprint of a more complex creature, shows that there was still an intermediate link.
According to Vinther, this creature had an immobile lifestyle, despite the presence of a large number of tentacles. It fed, mainly filtering water and extracting plankton. In each of its 18 tentacles this sea monster had a kind of thin branches, like feathers, with rows of large ciliary hairs, which probably helped him catch the prey.
Vinther suggests that some of the ancestors of the ctenophores had skeletons and that their ancient tentacles became the densely packed ones seen in these contemporary animals.
In addition, Vinther and his colleagues assume that the ctenophores could be directly related to corals, sea anemones and jellyfish.
Source: Mundo Sputnik News