Fossil worm puzzle solved

Machaeridian wormFrom Xinhua news agency:

Paleontologists find answer to puzzling worm pieces

21:52, January 11, 2008

Paleontologists digging up bits and pieces of an extinct worm’s body armor have wondered what the little creature looked like, and now they know after finding the first complete fossilized body in Morocco.

Using the newly-discovered fossil, researchers now say the wiggler (named Machaeridian) belongs to the annelid worm family, which also includes modern earthworms, leeches and sea mice.

Scientists first found evidence of this armored worm 150 years ago, but until now were mystified about its body shape and relationship to other species, living or dead. This finding is detailed in the Jan. 10 issue of the journal Nature.

Machaeridians went extinct about 300 million years ago, before dinosaurs inhabited the Earth. They had no backbone and were tiny — the new specimen is only an inch long.

Discovered by Ghent University graduate student Peter Van Roy, who collaborated with Yale University geologist Derek Briggs and his graduate student, Jakob Vinther, the fossil contains soft body parts in addition to durable scales, like those previously found. The presence of limb-like extensions on the body with furry bristles on them told the scientists that this creature was an annelid.

It’s very rare to find the soft parts of the body preserved, Briggs said.

“It has to be buried quickly,” he told LiveScience. “You have to get minerals forming and preserving the outline before the animal decays completely.”

See also here.

And here.

Nemertean worms: here.

British earthworm species: here.

THE shimmering sea mouse, Aphrodita aculeata, may hold a key to creating nanoscale electronics, making it possible to produce nanowires 100 times longer than existing methods allow – and for a fraction of the price: here.

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