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505-Million Year Old Jellyfish Fossils

  • 07 Aug 2023
  • 3 min read

Source: TOI 

Why in News?  

Recently, researchers have unveiled a collection of jellyfish fossils from the Cambrian period, providing a unique glimpse into their distant past. 

  • These preserved fossils, found in the Burgess Shale- a renowned fossil-rich site in the Canadian Rockies, offer an improbable pathway to preservation. 

What are the Major Findings of the Research?  

  • Special Features of the Fossils: 
    • The newly discovered jellyfish fossils retained remarkable features, such as over 90 fingerlike tentacles protruding from their bell-shaped bodies. 
    • Some specimens even contained stomach contents and gonads, providing invaluable insights into their anatomy and behavior. 
    • These things help scientists learn about how the jellyfish looked and acted. 
  • Link with Old Fossils from a Quarry:  
    • In the 1990s, scientists dug up over 170 jellyfish fossils in a place called Raymond Quarry in British Columbia. These fossils were kept for a long time. 
    • Researchers re-examined the specimens from the excavation and identified that the fossils actually belonged to a previously unknown species. 
      • This newly discovered species was named Burgessomedusa phasmiformis. The species falls under the medusozoans category. 

What are Jellyfish?  

  • About:  
    • Jellyfish are members of the phylum Cnidaria, a group of animals that includes corals, sea anemones, hydroids, and siphonophores.  
      • Cnidarians are characterized by having radial symmetry, a central mouth surrounded by tentacles, and specialized stinging cells called cnidocytes that can inject venom into their prey or predators. 
    • Jellyfish tend to just follow the currents of the ocean, they can be found around the world in every type of ocean water. 
      • They are considered to be one of the earliest branches of the animal tree of life. 
  • Characteristics:  
    • Despite their name, jellyfish do not have much characteristics of a fish, they are invertebrates, or animals with no backbones. 
      • Jellyfish are also among the simplest animals in terms of body organization and nervous system, lacking a brain, a heart, or a skeleton.  
    • However, some jellyfish have evolved remarkable adaptations, such as eyes, bioluminescence, and complex behaviors. 
  • Prey: 
    • They dine on fish, shrimp, crabs and tiny plants. They have tiny stinging cells in their tentacles to stun or paralyze their prey before they eat them. 
  • Challenge of Jellyfish Fossilization:  
    • Jellyfish, composed of 95% water, pose a considerable challenge when it comes to fossilization. Their delicate structure makes them prone to rapid deterioration, leaving behind minimal traces in the fossil record. 
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