Fossils reveal 500 million-year-old tulip-shaped creature

January 19th, 2012 - 6:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Jan 19 (IANS) A tulip-shaped creature inhabiting ocean depths more than 500 million years ago has emerged from the famous Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale in the Canadian Rockies.

Named Siphusauctum gregarium, the fossils reveal a creature about the length of a dinner knife (eight inches) which has a unique filter feeding system.

“This feeding system appears to be unique among animals…We do not know where it fits in relation to other organisms,” said Lorna O’Brien, doctoral candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Toronto, the journal Public Library of Science ONE reports.

“Our description is based on more than 1,100 fossil specimens from a new Burgess Shale locality that has been nicknamed the Tulip Beds,” added O’Brien, who conducted the study with Jean-Bernard Caron, curator of invertebrate palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum, according to a Toronto statement.

Siphusauctum has a long stem, with a calyx - a bulbous cup-like structure - near the top which encloses an unusual filter feeding system and a gut, according to a Toronto statement.

The creature is thought to have fed by filtering particles from water actively pumped into its calyx through small holes.

The stem ends with a small disc which anchored the creature to the seafloor. Siphusauctum lived in large clusters, as indicated by slabs containing over 65 individual specimens.

Located in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, the Tulip Beds were first discovered in 1983 by the Royal Ontario Museum.

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