Scientists have unearthed the remains of one of the Worlds rarest fossils - in downtown Ottawa. The 450 million year old fossil preserves the complete skeleton of a plumulitid machaeridian, one of only 8 such specimens known. Plumulitids were annelid worms - the group including earthworms, bristleworms and leeches, today found everywhere from the deepest sea to the soil in your yard - and although plumulitids were small they reveal important evidence of how this major group of organisms evolved.
"Such significant new fossils are generally discovered in remote or little studied areas of the globe, requiring difficult journeys and a bit of adventure to reach them" notes Jakob Vinther of Yale University, lead author of the paper describing the specimen. "Not this one though. It was found in a place that has an address rather than map co-ordinates!"
Plumulites canadensis, Albert Street, Ottawa, Canada K1P1A4. The fossil is described by Vinther and Dave Rudkin, of Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum, in the current issue of the journal Palaeontology.
It was Rudkin who first recognised its scientific significance: "This nifty little specimen first came to my notice when I received a letter from an amateur fossil collector in Nepean, Ontario. In prospecting for fossils in rock from a temporary building excavation he had turned up a small block containing a complete trilobite, but next to it was something else and he sent me a slightly fuzzy but very intriguing photo. The mystery fossil was clearly not another trilobite, and I although couldn't be certain, I thought it might be some sort of annelid worm with broad, flattened scales. James, the collector, generously agreed to lend me the specimen and I realised immediately it was a complete, fully articulated machaeridian! The first I had ever seen."
At that time it was not known that machaeridians were annelids. "James was happy to donate the specimen to the Royal Ontari
|Contact: David Rudkin|