|Posted by BioCoM Executive Account on April 10, 2014 at 11:50 PM|
The Cambrian Period is often referred to as the “Cambrian explosion” since it was a time period where most of marine invertebrates first appeared in the fossil record. This period gives scientists the best glimpses into the world of evolution when the world’s ecosystems were rapidly changing and diversified. Most of these fossils only show the organisms’ skeletal structure. Now, researchers from the University of Missouri have found fossilized embryos which will help with future interpretation of evolutionary history.
“Before the Ediacaran and Cambrian Periods, organisms were unicellular and simple. The Cambrian Period, which occurred between 540 million and 485 million years ago, ushered in the advent of shells. Over time, shells and exoskeletons can be fossilized, giving scientists clues into how organisms existed millions of years ago. This adaptation provided protection and structural integrity for organisms. My work focuses on those harder-to-find, soft-tissue organisms that weren't preserved quite as easily and aren't quite as plentiful,” says James Schiffbauer of MU College of Arts and Science.
The fossils were found in the lower Cambrian Shuijingtuo Formation in the Hubei Province of South China. Over 140 spherically shaped fossils were found which included features that were reminiscent of division stage embryos as if they were frozen in time. It is important to note that soft tissue fossils have different chemical patterns than harder, skeletal remains which offer clues to researchers in the identification process. They found that the fossilized embryos were significantly smaller than other fossil embryos found in the same time period, suggesting they represent an undescribed organism.
Jesse Broce, James D. Schiffbauer, Kriti Sen Sharma, Ge Wang, and Shuhai Xiao.Possible Animal Embryos from the Lower Cambrian (Stage 3) Shuijingtuo Formation, Hubei Province, South China. Journal of Paleontology, April 2014
University of Missouri-Columbia. "Rare fossilized embryos more than 500 million years old found." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 April 2014. .
Categories: Biology News