Eight-Armed Animal Preceded Dinosaurs

By | October 31, 2008

An eight-armed creature that looked more like a modern party favor than a living animal colonized a large section of the world’s oceans over 300 million years before the first dinosaurs emerged, suggests a new study.

The findings represent the first comparable animal fossils from the Ediacaran Period, 635 to 541 million years ago, which appear in two drastically different preservation environments — black shale of South China and quartz rock of South Australia.

“According to paleogeographic reconstructions, South China and South Australia were close to each other at the time, belonging to a supercontinent called Gondwana,” lead author Maoyan Zhu told Discovery News. …

Zhu, Gehling and their colleagues collected eight compressions of the animals from the Doushantuo Formation at Wenghui, China. They then traveled to Flinders Ranges, Australia, and collected seven specimens, leaving 31 others on two excavated and reassembled beds. The findings are published in the November issue of Geology. There is no question the creature, believed to represent one type of animal, had a lot of arms.

“The eight arms are clearly preserved in our specimens,” Zhu said, adding that the arms were tubular and in close contact with each other, but not joined. He and his colleagues believe the animal was a soft-bodied, dome-shaped organism that lived on seabeds and fed by absorbing dissolved nutrients from the ambient environment. –discovery

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