Oldest adult jellyfish fossil ever found is over 500 million years old

Oldest adult jellyfish fossil ever found is over 500 million years old

Artist’s impression of the traditional jellyfish Burgessomedusa phasmiformis

Christian McCall

A fossil unearthed in Canada is the oldest preserved grownup jellyfish discovered, courting from over 500 million years in the past.

Through the Eighties and Nineties, scientists uncovered exceptionally preserved stays of a variety of marine organisms, together with jellyfish, within the Burgess Shale, a fossil-rich deposit within the Canadian Rockies.

“The Burgess Shale is understood for unbelievable high quality of preservation, together with animals that also have their eyes, stomachs and guts, typically with the final meals nonetheless preserved inside,” says Joe Moysiuk on the College of Toronto in Canada.

Within the years since being excavated, nonetheless, many of those fossils have sat untouched within the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

New Scientist Default Image

Slab exhibiting two preserved Burgessomedusa phasmiformis jellyfish, one giant and the opposite small and the wrong way up

Jean-Bernard Caron/Royal Ontario Museum

Amongst them, Moysiuk and his colleagues have recognized the earliest document of an grownup jellyfish. The specimen belongs to a brand new species, which the workforce named Burgessomedusa phasmiformis. “This implies primarily the Burgess Shale jellyfish, with a ghost-like kind,” he says. “That’s due to its common physique form, which we thought regarded just a little bit just like the ghost from [the video game] Pac-Man.”

The traditional animal seems fairly much like fashionable jellyfish, says Moysiuk, measuring 20 centimetres lengthy, with a big bell-shaped physique and greater than 90 tentacles across the edge. The jellyfish was caught in an undersea mud movement round 500 million years in the past, which quickly buried it.

Jellyfish have a posh life cycle wherein they tackle two distinct varieties: polyps and medusas. Of their polyp stage, which is without doubt one of the first steps in a jellyfish’s life, they dwell on the seafloor and reproduce asexually. They then mature into medusas, which may freely swim and mate with different jellyfish.

Earlier excavations have revealed 560-million-year-old fossils of polyps. “However that is the primary time that we have now definitive proof of a big swimming jellyfish throughout this time,” says Moysiuk, which means that jellyfish had developed this life cycle not less than half a billion years in the past.


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