An ancient sea animal that looked like a flower had its anus right next to its mouth, a new fossil study finds.
The research reveals that this odd marine creature was likely an ancestor of a group known as the entoprocta. Previously, the oldest fossil entoprocta came from the late Jurassic, about 145 million years ago. The new fossils date all the way back to theCambrian, about 520 million years before the present.
That is near the so-called Cambrian Explosion, when most of the major lineages of animals appeared on the scene, as did complex ecosystems. Some odd animals emerged during this time, such as bizarre shrimplike monsters called anomalocaridids that could grow up to about 6 feet (1.8 meters) in length; a 515-million-year-old predator with compound eyes containing 3,000 lenses; and a 50-legged arthropod that skittered along the seafloor of what is now Canada.
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The newfound species, Cotyledion tylodes, has been analyzed before, but the discovery of hundreds of new specimens allowed researchers led by Zhifei Zhang of Northwest University in Xi'an, China, to take a more detailed look. The team analyzed 418 specimens from Yunnan, China. [The 10 Weirdest Animal Discoveries]