Friday, 8 April 2016

Bizarre fossil hauled its offspring around 'like kites'

By Jonathan Webb
Science reporter, BBC News

4 April 2016 

The ten capsules presumably bobbed behind the animal like balloons as it scuttled along the sea floor

A 430 million-year-old sea creature apparently dragged its offspring around on strings like kites - a baffling habit not seen anywhere else in the animal kingdom.

Scientists who discovered the fossil have dubbed it the "kite runner".

Ten capsules tethered to its back appear to contain juvenile progeny, all at different stages of development.

Reported in the journal PNAS, the many-legged, eyeless, 1cm animal is not directly related to any living species.

"There isn't an animal today that it's essentially related to," David Legg, a palaeontologist from the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, told BBC News.

"It's what we refer to as being on a stem lineage. So it belongs to a group that would have evolved and diversified before the modern groups did."

In fact, Dr Legg added, although it clearly had the segmented body and exoskeleton of an arthropod, it was quite a job to figure out precisely where to position the little beast on the evolutionary tree.

"Often you can look at a particular animal and say, that belongs to this group or that group. This one - we had no clue."

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