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


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Artist’s impression of the ancient jellyfish Burgessomedusa phasmiformis

Christian McCall

The fossil unearthed in Canada is the oldest preserved adult jellyfish, dating back more than 500 million years.

During the 1980s and 1990s, scientists discovered highly preserved remains of a variety of marine life, including jellyfish, in the Burgess Shale, a fossil-rich deposit in the Canadian Rockies.

Joe Moishuk of the University of Toronto in Canada said: “The Burgess Shale is known for its remarkable quality of preservation, with animals sometimes containing their eyes, stomachs, internal organs, and even their last meals preserved inside. “It’s been a long time coming,” he says.

However, many of these fossils remain untouched at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum for years after being unearthed.

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Board showing two preserved Burgesomedusa phasmiformis jellyfish. One is large, the other is small, and they are upside down.

Jean-Bernard Caron/Royal Ontario Museum

Among them, Moisiuk and his colleagues identified the oldest record of an adult jellyfish.This specimen belongs to a new species, which the research team has named Burgessomedusa phasmiformis. “This essentially means a ghostly-shaped Burgess Shale jellyfish,” he says. “That’s because I thought its overall body shape was a little similar to the ghosts in the movie.” [the video game] Pac-Man. “

Moisiuk said the ancient animal closely resembles a modern jellyfish, measuring 20 centimeters (20 centimeters) long, with a large bell-shaped body and more than 90 tentacles surrounding it. About 500 million years ago, this jellyfish was caught in an ocean mudflow and quickly buried.

Jellyfish have a complex life cycle that takes on two different forms: polyps and jellyfish. During the polyp stage, one of the first steps in a jellyfish’s life, the jellyfish lives on the ocean floor and reproduces asexually. They then grow into jellyfish, able to swim freely and mate with other jellyfish.

Excavations so far have revealed fossilized polyps dating back 560 million years. “But this is the first time we have definitive evidence of large jellyfish swimming in this era,” Moishuk said, adding that jellyfish developed this life cycle at least 500 million years ago. Suggests.

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