"Ostracods are the most abundant fossil arthropods, occurring ubiquitously as bivalved shells in rocks of the last 490 million years, and are common in most water environments today," Siveter said. "The find is important because it is one of only a handful preserving the fossilized soft-tissues of ostracods."
He continued, "The preservation of soft-parts of animals is a very rare occurrence in the fossil record and allows unparalleled insight into the ancient biology, community structure and evolution of animals – key facts that that would otherwise be lost to science."
As the image here shows, the fossils were reconstructed virtually, by using a technique that involves grinding each specimen down, layer by layer, and then photographing it at each stage. It took 500 such "slices" to create the image.
Siveter shared, "Fossil discoveries in general help elucidate our own place in the tree of life. This discovery adds another piece of knowledge in the jigsaw of understanding the diversity and evolution of animals."
"It is exciting to discover that a common group of fossils that we thought we knew a lot about may well have been hood-winking us as to their true identity, which we now realize because we have their beautifully fossilized soft-parts. A case of a 'wolf in sheep's clothing.'"
A paper describing specimens of the extremely rare species is in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Image: The fossil Pauline avibella. Credit: David J. Siveter, Derek E.
G. Briggs, Derek J. Siveter, Mark D. Sutton and Sarah C. Joomun