Paleontologists Discover Fossil of Ancient Tubular Organism

Posted on May 9, 2014

Plexus ricei

Paleontologists have discovered a fossil of an ancient organism resembling a tapeworm or flatworm. Scientists at the University of California, Riverside discovered the fossilized organism, which resembles a curving tube. The tubular organism is part of the Ediacara biota, a group of odd soft-bodied organism that lived during the Ediacaran Period. It resided on the Ediacaran sea floor about 575 million years ago. The creature, named Plexus ricei, was 5 to 80 centimeters long (2 inches to 2.6 feet) and 5 to 20 millimeters wide.

Mary L. Droser, a professor of paleontology, whose lab led the research, says in the announcement, "Plexus was unlike any other fossil that we know from the Precambrian. It was bilaterally symmetrical at a time when bilaterians-all animals other than corals and sponges-were just appearing on this planet. It appears to have been very long and flat, much like a tapeworm or modern flatworm."

Plexus ricei fossil

dLucas V. Joel, a former graduate student at UC Riverside and the first author of the research paper, says, "Ediacaran fossils are extremely perplexing: they don't look like any animal that is alive today, and their interrelationships are very poorly understood."

The research paper on the newly discovered ancient species is publishing here in the Journal of Paleontology.

Images: Droser Lab, UC Riverside

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