Saturday, 16 March 2013

Phallus-shaped fossils identified as new species

 By Michelle Warwicker, Reporter, BBC Nature

Scientists have revealed insights into a peculiar, phallus-shaped creature discovered at a fossil site in Canada.

The animal has been identified as Spartobranchus tenuis, a species from the Cambrian period that was previously unknown to science.
artist impression

The odd-looking creature was an ancient relative of acorn worms that exist today, according to researchers.

Their study, published in the journal Nature, is the first full description of the prehistoric animal.

Remains of soft-bodied worms were found in the Burgess Shale fossil beds in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada throughout the last century.

But now researchers studying the 505 million years old fossils have for the first time given a detailed insight into the lives of the bizarre beasts.

The prehistoric marine creatures were around the size of an earthworm, "but unlike an earthworm that's segmented from its front end to its back end, these guys just had three distinct body segments," said research team member Dr Christopher Cameron from the University of Montreal, Canada.

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