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Bonanza of Bizarre Cambrian Fossils reveals some of the earliest animals on Earth



  Bonanza of Bizarre Cambrian Fossils reveals some of the earliest animals on earth

The Qingjiang biot artist's presentation shows a characteristic early Cambrian life from a well-preserved fossilized object.

Credit: Dongjing Fu

The newly discovered fossil spot in China is abundant with strange, primitive species that have never been found in any place on Earth. The wealth of beings includes prickly, segmented animals, known as the mud dragon, and several jellyfish with preserved tentacles.

Paleontologists have discovered this treasury of fossils, which are extremely well-preserved along the banks of the Danish River in southern China. Dozens of dozens of creatures date from the Cambrian period (490 million to 530 million years) when the animal's diversity on Earth thrives at an unprecedented rate.

Scientists gathered hundreds of specimens and identified fossils of 1

01 animals. Of these, more than half are new species still to be described, researchers said in a new study. [Image Gallery: Cambrian Creatures: Primitive Sea Life]

"It is a great surprise to find a new deposit with such incredible wealth and with such a large number of species that are completely new to science," co-authored research Robert Gaines, professor of geology at Pomona College in California, Live Science in Email.

Researchers in China found the place while exploring old Cambrian rocks nearby. During a lunch break by the river, scientists noticed a "striking pattern of alternating gray and black stripes" in the rocks of the river bank. This type of sedimentary model shows areas where ancient mud streams have once risen – streams that may have buried and preserved ancient organisms, Gaines explained.

Scientists have begun to break the rock, and most probably soon discovered the first part of the site, the exclusive remains of fossils, known today as Zinjiang's biota, they wrote in the study.

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All in all, the team has discovered fossils of more than 50 species, unknown to science, many of the fossils bumblebee jellyfish, colossal worms, armored arthropods and others – retain an astonishing level of detail in their preserved soft tissues, such as gills, digestive system and even eyes

"Qingjiang is a new window of a different type of early Cambrian ecosystem," Gaines said.

As in other rich fossil deposits of well-preserved Cambrian lives – Burgess Shale deposits in Canada and Chengjiang deposits in Yunnan province – Qingjiang animals were quickly swallowed with mud and then buried in fine-grained soils, Gaines. As sediment "cements" around small bodies, it blocks microbes and stops the process of decay.

This has preserved "exquisite primary organic remains of creatures like jellyfish and worms, which usually do not leave any fossil data," he said. In fact, jellyfish and marine anemones, which are among the earliest known animals, are much more numerous in Qingjiang biot than in Burgess Shale or Chengjiang sites, researchers said.

 One of the still undeclared species from China is an ancient jellyfish known as cnidarian; here are two layers of "umbrella" and a number of tentacles.

One of the unknown species of China is an ancient jellyfish known as cnidarian; visible here are two layers of her "umbrella" and a number of tentacles.

Credit: Xingliang Zhang

Moreover, the Qingjiang fossil state is much better than that of fossils in other Cumbria. In Burgess Shale, the formation of the Rocky Mountains heats and compresses the fossils; although anatomical details remain, according to Gaines the fossils are re-shaped from their original forms. And in Chengjiang, the groundwater that had fallen over the fossils for millions of years, they also took some of the details of their original forms. "The Tsinjiang Fossils, however, are virginal and seem as they would be after they were

The findings were published today (March 21st) in the journal Science

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