Paleontologists found the remains of four primitive sea creatures shaped like leaves in central China.
Specimens estimated to be around 550 million years old were unearthed in the Three Gorges area in Hubei Province by the early life research team from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NIGPAS). , in collaboration with a number of scholars from Virginia Polytechnic University (Virginia Tech) of America.
Four organisms identified from the fossil – including Arborea arborea, Arborea denticulata and two other unnamed Arborea species – look roughly the same and have a body length of about 10 centimeters. Lead researcher Pang Ke, an associate professor from NIGPAS, stressed that they are among the first group of organisms that live on the ocean floor.
Fossils and restoration images of Arborea. Photo: NIGPAS.
The Arborea is leaf-shaped with a “stalk” containing the tips to attach to the seabed, while the “leaves” are upright and swaying in the water. The team speculates that they feed by absorbing small particles of organic matter from seawater.
According to NIGPAS, these ancient mollusks thrived in the late Ediacara period. In the past, it was thought that Arborea was the ancestor of modern sea pens, but phylogenetic evidence has rejected this hypothesis. New research suggests they may represent an early class of eukaryotic, multicellular organisms.
“The Arborea is a large group of organisms that used to be widely distributed across the oceans. Thus, fossil studies can provide important clues about the evolution of life.”