Cambrian fossil spiky worm discovery


Illustration showing the many legs and spikes covering the early Cambrian creature, Collinsium ciliosum. Credit: Javier Ortega-Hernández

From LiveScience:

Armored Spiky Worm Had 30 Legs, Will Haunt Your Nightmares

by Laura Geggel, Staff Writer

June 29, 2015 03:00pm ET

A spiky, wormlike creature with 30 legs — 18 clawed rear legs and 12 featherlike front legs that likely helped it filter food from the water — once lived in the ancient oceans of the early Cambrian period, about 518 million years ago, a new study finds.

The critter is one of the first known animals on Earth to develop protective armor and to sport specialized limbs that likely helped it catch food, the researchers said. This newfound species lived during the Cambrian explosion, a time of rapid evolutionary development, they said.

“It’s a bit of a large animal for this time period,” said one of the study’s lead researchers, Javier Ortega-Hernández, a research fellow in paleobiology at the University of Cambridge. “The largest specimen is just under 10 centimeters [4 inches], which, for a wormy thing, is quite mighty.” [See Images of the Spiky Worm & Other Cambrian Creatures]

The creature likely used its rear clawed legs to anchor to sponges or other penetrable surfaces, and waved its feathery front limbs to and fro in the current to catch nutrients in the water, Ortega-Hernández said. This technique is still used by modern animals, such as bamboo shrimp, that capture passing meals with their fanlike forearms.

But, because the Cambrian critters were “soft and squishy,” it’s likely they waved their limbs in a gentle motion, Ortega-Hernández told Live Science. “I don’t imagine they would have quick muscle control.”

A squishy creature that didn’t move quickly needed a steadfast defense strategy, and that’s likely why it had so many spikes, he said. Other Cambrian wormlike creatures, such as the bizarre Hallucigenia, also sported spines.

Hallucigenia has two sets of spines per leg,” Ortega-Hernández said. “This one has up to five, which means it was a much more heavily armored creature.”

Collins’ monster

Researchers have dubbed the new creature Collinsium ciliosum, or Hairy Collins’ Monster, named after Desmond Collins, a paleontologist who discovered a fossil of a similar Cambrian wormlike creature in Canada in the 1980s. Since then, researchers have found five species of Collins’ Monster (in the family Luolishania), including one from Australia.

But, unlike earlier fossils, the newfound specimens offer researchers a spectacular view of the prehistoric creature. One fossil displays much of Collinsium ciliosum’s body, including its digestive tract and even the delicate, featherlike structures on its front limbs. Based on the fossils, when it was alive, the worm likely didn’t have any eyes or teeth, Ortega-Hernández said.

Over the past three years, scientists at Yunnan University in China and the University of Cambridge have uncovered and studied 29 C. ciliosum fossils from the early Cambrian Xiaoshiba biota, a deposit in southern China that contains a rich collection of fossilized Cambrian creatures, he said.

An analysis of C. ciliosum‘s anatomy indicates it’s a distant ancestor of modern-day velvet worms, also known as onychophorans — a small group (just 180 species) of squishy worms that live in tropical forests, shoot slime at their prey and resemble legged worms.

Interestingly, the Collins’ Monsters were likely a more diverse group that “came in a surprising variety of bizarre shapes and sizes” than today’s onychophorans, Ortega-Hernández said in a statement.

This isn’t the first time that an ancestral group has displayed more diversity than its modern-day relatives. Sea lilies (crinoids) and lamp shells (brachiopods) also follow this trend. But Collins’ Monsters are the first example of this evolutionary pattern playing out in a mostly soft-bodied group, the researchers said. [See Images of Another Bizarre Cambrian Creature]

The study is “a superb description based on absolutely exquisite fossils,” said Greg Edgecombe, a researcher of arthropod evolution at the Natural History Museum in London, who was not involved in the new study.

The new finding drives home that Cambrian wormlike animals such as Hallucigenia and the new Collinsium are the ancestors of Onychophora, Edgecombe said.

“That means they are more closely related to Onychophora than to any other living groups (such as arthropods or tardigrades),” Edgecombe told Live Science in an email. “Rather than floating around on the tree of life without an exact home,” these creatures can be pinpointed to a living group, Edgecombe said.

The findings were published online today (June 29) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

See also here.

Cambrian fossil Hallucigenia, new study


This video says about itself:

Hallucigenia: The worm with the missing head

The remains of an ancient worm species called ‘Hallucigenia’ were so bizarre looking that scientists originally reconstructed it upside down and back to front. Now Martin Smith reveals the most complete picture so far of this peculiar marine worm.

Read the Nature paper ‘Hallucigenia’s head and the pharyngeal armature of early ecdysozoanshere.

Find out more about Hallucigenia and other finds from the Burgess Shale at www.burgess-shale.rom.on.ca.

24th June 2015

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Hallucigenia: Significance of bizarre extinct creature revealed as it finally bares its teeth

The fossil’s bizarre appearance had mystified scientists for more than a century

Steve Connor, Science Editor

Wednesday 24 June 2015

A bizarre extinct creature that has mystified scientists since its 500m-year fossil was first unearthed more than a century ago has finally revealed its teeth – placing it centre stage in the evolution of many complex life-forms living today.

Hallucigenia, which owes its name to its unworldly appearance, was so odd that scientists initially confused its top from its bottom and its head from its tail. However, a study has now unequivocally identified its mouth, complete with a fearsome ring of sharp teeth.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge have also identified a pair of simple eyes on Hallucigenia’s head and have determined that it was a close relative of the last common ancestor of everything from tiny velvet roundworms to huge lobsters.

“The early evolutionary history of this huge group is pretty much uncharted. While we know that the animals in this group are united by the fact that they moult, we haven’t been able to find many physical characteristics that unite them,” said Martin Smith of Cambridge University, the lead author of the study in Nature</em>.

Read more: Bat-like dinosaur fossil found after 160 million years

176-million-year old dinosaur vertebra discovered in Yorkshire

New Jurassic-era dinosaur species discovered in Wales

“Prior to our study there was still some uncertainty as to which end of the animal represented the head, and which the tail,” Dr Smith said.

“A large balloon-like orb at one end of the specimen was originally thought to be the head, but we can now demonstrate that this actually wasn’t part of the body at all, but a dark stain representing decay fluids or gut contents that oozed out as the animal was flattened during burial,” he said.

Rare squid worm seen near Galapagos islands


From CNN in the USA about this 18 June 2015 video:

Ocean explorers studying ocean vents near the Galapagos Islands spotted a rare squid worm never-before-seen in the region. For more visit Nautiluslive.org.

Webcam young white storks eat worms, moles, mice


This video from the Netherlands is called White Storks 5th May 2013 11:08 Feeding – 4 chicks.

In the Netherlands, this spring and summer, there is a webcam at a white stork nest.

It turns out the parents feed the young storks mainly earthworms.

The parents bring other prey, like moles and mice, as well.

Nematodes helping against Lyme disease


This video says about itself:

Beneficial Nematodes For Pest Control In The Garden

30 August 2013

Beneficial Nematodes are a natural, easy and safe way to get rid of numerous pests like grubs, fungus gnats, fleas and ticks and other pests that develop in the soil.

Translated from Silvia Hellingman and Arnold van Vliet in the Netherlands:

Sunday, May 24th, 2015

Fighting ticks by using nematodes seems a promising and environmentally friendly method. The first tests show that sixty percent of the ticks dies within ten days after they have been contacted with the minuscule worms. The coming weeks several field tests will be performed to optimize their practical application.

These ticks cause Lyme disease.

Avril Lavigne can’t hold back tears while talking about her battle with Lyme disease.

New marine worm species discovery in Antarctica


Parougia diapason. Photo: Sergi Taboada, UB-IRBio

From the University of Barcelona in Spain:

New species of marine worm discovered on Antarctica‘s Deception Island

May 08, 2015

Parougia diapason is the name of a new marine invertebrate species discovered on Deception Island (South Shetland Islands), in the Southern Ocean. An article published in the journal Polar Biology describes the finding.

The is part of a group of (polychaetous annelids) that commonly occur in marine seabeds rich in from both natural and anthropogenic origin at different latitudes. To be precise, P. diapason is the second species of the genus Parougia discovered in the Southern Ocean (P. furcata was described in 1953 by O. Hartman).

A new species on the seabed of Deception Island

Experts identified this small marine worm in bones of a common minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) in Port Foster shallow waters, on Deception Island, close to the Gabriel de Castilla Spanish Antarctic base, but also in association with organically enriched sediments nearby. “The Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands are a widely studied area. However, few species have been described so far on Deception Island,” says Professor Conxita Àvila, head of the multidisciplinary project DISTANTCOM, which studies chemical ecology, phylogenetics, phylogeography and trophic ecology in the Antarctic continent.

Marine worms that feed on whale bones: live after death

According to researcher Sergi Taboada, first author of the article, “Tthere are few scientific studies centred on marine invertebrate communities associated with whale bones in the Antarctic. Our group is pioneering these types of studies, which are also being developed in other Earth regions.”

Experts have carried out morphological and phylogenetic analyses (with nuclear and mitochondrial genetic markers) to determine the new species. Evidence suggests that it is the most ancient species of the genus Parougia. The species presents some morphological traits, including lack of a dorsal cirrus and some unique morphological characteristics related to the jaw apparatus, that distinguish it from the rest of the congeneric species described so far.

“The study provides comprehensive information about the new species, not only from a morphological and ecological point of view, but also places the species in its phylogenetic context,” says Taboada. “In the past, this type of information was not available, but lately, it is more and more common to find species descriptions that include a phylogenetic tree. Moreover, this kind of information is collected on public databases that every interested researcher can consult.”

Parougia diapason, an opportunistic species

One of the most interesting scientific aspects is the ecology of the species discovered in the Antarctica. These organisms populate areas rich in organic matter, both from natural and anthropogenic origins.

“It seems that P. diapason is an organism that signals any kind of environment alteration, like a significant increase of organic matter,” says Taboada. “The species is a clear example of an opportunistic species, in other words—an organism that profits from an excess of organic matter, which favours its proliferation and population density.” Knowledge of these ecological characteristics is crucial as it allows detecting environmental changes in an indirect way.

There is not much scientific literature about Antarctic marine benthic organisms that proliferate in eutrophic habitats (those rich in organic matter). There are some studies centered on anthropogenic activity impact in the McMurdo base, the largest American scientific base in the Antarctica, to monitor marine invertebrate communities in the area where waste water was dumped.

Antarctic species discovery and protection

The UB-IRBio research team has made other significant discoveries of Antarctic marine invertebrates, for example, the two first bone-eating worms of the genus Osedax, or the nemertean Antarctonemertes riesgoae that has a unique reproductive strategy. However, scientists say that there is still much work to do in order to explore, discover and protect Antarctica.

“It is necessary to continue studying new species and to do our best to protect them,” says Conxita Àvila. “The Antarctic has very special habitats that are difficult to study; measures must be maximized in order to avoid, for instance, anthropogenic pollution and tourism impact.”

“Any change can affect Antarctic regions but we do not have enough data yet. However, it is certain that these changes can cause the extinction of species that remain unknown and unstudied. Besides biodiversity loss, species extinction means missing the opportunity to study the chemical products they produce, which may be molecules with potential biological interest,” alerts Conxita Àvila.

Explore further: Researchers identify marine sponge strategies to survive in Antarctic and Tropical latitudes

More information: “A new Parougia species (Annelida, Dorvilleidae) associated with eutrophic marine habitats in Antarctica.” Polar Biology, April 2015, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 517-527 DOI: 10.1007/S00300-014-1614-7

Swimming leeches video from the USA


This video from the Shedd Aquarium in the USA says about itself:

27 April 2015

Shedd researcher Solomon David took this video of aquatic leeches at an agricultural ditch-wetland junction near the Bay of Green Bay. According to him, “I’ve seen many fishes at this site over past years, but never leeches (here or anywhere else) in numbers like this. They were at this site for at least two days.”