500-million-year-old worm named after giant sandworms in the dunes: ScienceAlert

the Dune The books (and subsequent films) are some of the most epic in all of science fiction, and Tea Holiday’s famous sandworms from Dune It has now inspired the naming of a new species of ancient sea worm, the W Shaihuludia shurikeni.

Discovered in geological formation Crossing northern Utah and southern Idaho, known for its abundance of Cambrian fossils dating back some 505 million years.

The worm – described by a research team from the US and Germany – is much smaller than a roundworm Dune Varied, small enough to fit easily in the palm of your hand, and distinctive in the shape of a star chaeta (stiff bristles) on her back.

reserved chatae. (Kimmig et al., Historical Biology2023)

The shapes of the radial blades left in the rock meant that experts weren’t sure at first what exactly they were finding – after some careful analysis, the researchers realized what they were looking at was an animal, not a mineral.

“The manner in which the fossil is preserved is also of particular interest, because most of the soft tissue is preserved as a bubble of iron oxide, which indicates that the animal died and decomposed for a period of time before becoming fossilized.” He says Geologist Julian Kimmig, of the State Museum of Natural History, Germany.

The team used a variety of techniques to better define what the discovery was, including Scanning electron microscope And Energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy – to determine the structure and chemical composition of what is behind the fossil, as well as reveal more about the fossilization process.

Shaihuludia shurikeni
Rebuilding Shaihuludia shurikeni From Spencer Shiel in Utah. (Rhiannon Lavigne)

The newly discovered creature is classified as worldly, or segmented worm. As for calling it sweet tea, it is Freemen People name for the phantom sandworms on the planet Arrakis in Frank Herbert DuneShuriken is the Japanese word for throwing stars.

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Before now, only one type of annulus was found in this Spence Shale Lagerst├Ątte The site, which researchers have described as a treasure trove of fossilized remains. This makes it important to determine what the region might have looked like some half a billion years ago.

In fact, the new study helped researchers reclassify another fossil from the same area. Back in the Cambrian period, marine ecosystems in this part of North America were dominated by trilobites, brachiopods, molluscs, and early arthropods.

“It’s so wonderful to think of our planet as a record of history and all the different environments that have happened over billions of years, all on the same ground that we’re standing on,” He says Paleontologist Rhiannon Lavigne, University of Kansas in the United States.

“We have strange worlds under our feet.”

Research published in Historical Biology.

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