LAWRENCE, KS Using recently discovered fossil snapshots found in rocks more than 500 million years old, three University of Kansas researchers have described the oldest definitive jellyfish ever found.
In a paper to be published in PLoS ONE on October 31, the researchers describe four types of cnidarian fossils preserving traits that allow them to be related to modern orders and families of jellyfish. The specimens are about 200 million years older than the oldest previously discovered jellyfish fossils.
The fossil record is full of circular shaped blobs, some of which are jellyfish, said Paulyn Cartwright, KU assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and one of the articles authors. Thats one of the reasons the fossils we describe are so interesting, because you can see a distinct bell-shape, tentacles, muscle scars and possibly even the gonads.
The jellyfish left behind a film in fine sediment that resembles a picture of the animal. Most jellyfish do not leave such a clear impression behind because they are often preserved in coarse sand.
Cartwright, Bruce Lieberman, KU professor of geology and senior curator of invertebrate paleontology at the KU Natural History Museum, and Jonathan Hendricks, postdoctoral researcher in geology at KU, collaborated on the article. Their research will be published October 31 in PLoS ONE, an online peer-reviewed journal by the Public Library of Science. Other researchers involved in the discoveries were Susan L. Halgedahl and Richard D. Jarrard, both of the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah; Antonio C. Marques, University of San Paulo, San Paulo, Brazil; and Allen G. Collins, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Lieberman said the jellyfish the group describes, found in Utah, offer insights into the puzzle of rapid species diversification and development that occurred during the Cambrian radiation, a time when most animal groups appear in the fossil
|Contact: Jen Humphrey|
Public Library of Science