A half-billion-year-old fossil of a strange, armored worm has been discovered in China that harbors the ancestors of three groups of animals.

An international team of scientists has found that a well-preserved 518-million-year-old fossilized worm resembles an ancestor of three major groups of living animals.

Scientists from the Universities of Bristol and Oxford and the Natural History Museum found that the 1.2 cm long fossils found in China belonged to a strange armored worm, carrying tufts of serrated bristles on its sides, and dense plates intertwined in the correct order on its back. who crawled on the ground for more than half a year. A billion years ago, during the period known as the Cambrian explosion, it was named wufengella, a short creature that belonged to an extinct group of molluscs called tommothyids.

Scientists say that this organism had a fatty body with a number of flat lobes sticking out on the sides, and tufts of hairs protrude from the body between the lobes and plates.

Numerous lobes, tufts of hairs, and a group of plates on the back indicate that the worm was originally sequential or segmented, like the earthworm.

The scientists added that this discovery sheds light on the evolution of three major groups of living animals.

The results were published in the journal Current Biology, and study co-author Dr Jacob Venter of the University of Bristol’s School of Geosciences said: “It appears to be an unlikely lineage between polychaetes and chitons. Interestingly, they do not belong to either of these two groups.

518 million year old armored worm is the ancestor of three major animal groupshttps://t.co/5B6IHkdQXerice.twitter.com/1uQ4ZM7B7C

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The animal kingdom consists of more than 30 basic body plans (a set of features and morphological and morphological features common to representatives of one type of animal, the general structure adopted by each organism in the process of its growth, and the arrangement of its constituent elements), called types. , each of which contains a set of specific functions.

Only a few of them are common to more than one group, which indicates their very rapid development.

Co-author Dr Luke Barry of the University of Oxford added: “Wufengella belongs to a group of Cambrian fossils that are essential for understanding how tuft bearers (a branch of tussock bearers made up of brachiopods and mosses) evolved. called tommothiids, and from these fossils it was possible to understand how brachiopods evolved to have two ancestral shells with many shell-like plates arranged in a cone or tube.

Brachiopods, or brachiopods, are a type of marine animal that have hard shells (shells) on their upper and lower sides, like molluscs, and live attached to the seabed, rocks, or coral reefs. But its interior design is very different.

In fact, the paper showed that the Wufengella fossil is a common ancestor of three species called lophophores and shared with phoroids and algae known as bryozoans.

Family trees using amino acid sequences are consistent with anatomical evidence that the three are each other’s closest living relatives, collectively named Lophophorata after the lophophore.

Dr. Barry explained: “When it became clear to me what kind of fossil I was looking at under a microscope, I could not believe my eyes. eyes on.”

Co-author Greg Edgecomb of the Natural History Museum added: “This discovery highlights the importance of fossils in reconstructing evolution. We get an incomplete picture by looking only at living animals, with relatively few anatomical features common to different people. Wufengella, we can trace each lineage back to its roots, realizing that they once looked very different and led a very different, sometimes unique lifestyle, and sometimes shared with distant relatives.

The new study is published in the journal Current Biology.

Source: Daily Mail