Sunday, 10 July 2016

Penis-shaped fossils from Canadian Rockies solve century-old mystery

An Oesia fossil shows that it has an acorn-shaped structure near the top and a bright bulbous structure at the other end used to anchor the worm in its tube.Paleontologists have finally identified two kinds of mysterious fossils misidentified for a century — and traced them both to some phallus-shaped worms that lived 505 million years ago and built themselves some very elaborate homes.
Key to solving the mystery was an extraordinary new fossil bed discovered just four years ago and insights gained by the scientists through dissecting the rotting carcasses of some modern worms.
In 1911, American paleontologist Charles Walcott collected a fossil of a strange worm called Oesia disjuncta at the Burgess Shale of B.C.'s Yoho National Park, a now world-famous fossil bed that Walcott had discovered two years earlier.
Margaretia dorus
Margaretia dorus is the name given to a fossil that was originally believed to be a strange kind of tubular algae. The fibrous tubes with lots of pores turn out to be the homes built by Oesia. (Jean-Bernard Caron)
Another unusual find at the Burgess Shale was Margaretia dorus, which paleontologists proposed in 1933 was an extinct, tubular algae.
Researchers have now concluded that Oesia is a relative of penis-shaped marine animals that still exist today, called acorn worms, and Margaretia was a tubular -read more

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