New discoveries make ancient animal explosion bigger

Washington, Sep 10 (ANI): Scientists have discovered eight new kinds of the earliest animals from the Cambrian Explosion in a unexpected section of ancient rock 30 miles from the famous Burgess Shale of Canada.

The new discoveries are remarkable because they preserve features of animals which had only soft parts-like gills and eyes-and remained intact for more than half a billion years.

Among the more dramatic discoveries is a new kind of "anomalocaridid"-the monster shrimp-like top predator a half-billion years ago.

"This one is a new genus and species," Discovery News quoted Robert Gaines, one of the co-authors of a report in the journal Geology.

"These (different anomalocaridids) are creating the possibility of linkages between these very rare snapshots," all over the world, said paleontologist Nigel Hughes of the University of California at Riverside.

But more compelling is the possibility that there are a lot more such fossils out there preserving the story of one of the most dramatic periods in the history of life.

"What's really exciting is that those (fossils) are so widespread," said Gaines.

The key to that, he said, is in the origins of the shale itself.

These new fossils are from rocks that were once above the cliff edge-on a wide, sloping, muddy seafloor.

"It's been controversial to what extent these animals are living in the spot they were found, and to what extent transported there (after death)," said Hughes. (ANI)

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