Scientists report the fossils of the oldest known species of swimming jellyfish, dating back a staggering 505 million years. Discovered in Canada’s Burgess Shale, renowned for well-preserved fossils, these findings shed light on the enigmatic past of these mesmerizing creatures.
The newly discovered species, Burgessomedusa phasmiformis, resembles a large jellyfish with a saucer- or bell-shaped body up to 20 centimeters in height. Its approximately 90 short tentacles would have enabled it to capture large prey.
Jellyfish are members of a subgroup of cnidaria called medusozoans, which is the oldest group of living animals. They are composed of 95% water and decay rapidly, so fossilized specimens are uncommon.
However, the specimens discovered in the late 1980s and early 1990s were remarkably well preserved.
Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron, curator of invertebrate palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum and co-author of the study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, said, “Finding such incredibly delicate animals preserved in rock layers on top of these mountains is such a wondrous discovery.”
A Rarity in Fossil Records
Due to the rarity of jellyfish fossils, their evolutionary history has been studied primarily through the examination of fossilized larval stages and molecular data from living jellyfish.
According to Joe Moysiuk, a paleontology student at the University of Toronto and co-author of the study, jellyfish and their relatives have been “remarkably hard to pin down in the Cambrian fossil record” despite being one of the earliest animal groups.
These findings deepen our understanding of the ancient marine ecosystem, showcasing the pivotal role played by these mesmerizing creatures in Earth’s early history.
The rarity and preservation of these fossils make this discovery all the more awe-inspiring, leaving scientists and the world marveling at the wonders of our planet’s ancient oceans.
Source: The Guardian