Soft-bodied creatures rarely stand the test of time, as their remains often decay before they can fossilize, leaving paleontologists to rely on mere speculation to describe the lives of ancient creatures. So, when scientists from Imperial College London found the preserved body of a prehistoric soft-bodied creature clinging to the shell of a fossilized brachiopod, they knew they had stumbled upon a rare find.
What they found was something called a "Drakozoon". It's a leathery blob of a creature - a member of the invertebrate super phylum called lophophorates. The Drakozoon lived during the Silurian Period and would attach itself to substrate, extending its filamentous tentacles into the ocean, feeding on any tiny morsels that drifted by them. When threatened, it would retreat into its hood until danger passed.
The researchers were able to recreate the Drakozoon using 3D modeling by slicing the fossil into 200 pieces and scanning them into the computer, creating a digital recreation of the only known Drakozoon fossil. Examination of the model revealed eight deep ridges on either side of its body, suggesting that this individual may have once been a single individual in a group of many repeated units, much like the tapeworm.
"Excitingly, our 3D model brings back to life a creature that until recently no one knew even existed, and provides us with a window into the life of Drakozoon," explains Dr. Mark Sutton from Imperial College London. "We think this tiny blob of jelly survived by clinging onto rocks and hard-shelled creatures, making a living by plucking microscopic morsels out of seawater. By looking at this primitive creature, we also get one tantalizing step closer to understanding what the earliest creatures on Earth looked like."
Source: Science Daily