Researchers have discovered an exceptionally well-preserved fossil in 430 million-year-old rocks representing a new species of primitive sea cucumber, which they have named Sollasina cthulhu due to its similarity to sea dignity from HP Lovecraft's fictional universe
An international team of paleontologists created a precise 3D reconstruction of the remains, which was discovered at a site in the UK County of Herefordshire-revealing an important circulatory system that was previously unknown in this group of animals, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B .
The researchers say that while the newly described The creature looks like a kind of sea urchin, it actually belongs to an extinct group of echinoderms called "ophiocistioids" which, according to their analysis, are ancient families of sea cucumbers-a group of leathery-skinned, marine animals with elongated bodies that live on the sea floor
"In terms of its morphological characteristics, Sollasina cthulhu was characterized by the presence of 45 tentacle-like tube feet, a body composed of many hard plates, and the mouth surrounded by five large 'teeth', '' Imran Rahman, lead author of the study from the University of Oxford, told Newsweek .
The fact that the roughly one-inch-wide fossil was so well pre "The nodule containing the fossil was collected in the early 2000s and split in 2006, but it was not until late 201
"We created a reconstruction through a process called serial grinding," he said. "This involved painstakingly grinding away the fossil, a few hundredths of a millimeter in a time, taking photographs of each exposed surface with a digital camera. This allowed us to build a dataset of hundreds of 'slices' through the fossil, which then was digitally reconstructed as a 'virtual fossil' on a computer. "
Using this reconstruction, the team was able to identify internal soft tissues which have never been seen in a fossil of this kind.
"This allowed us to first reconstruct the internal anatomy of this extinct group of fossil echinoderms in the first time, revealing similarities with modern sea agurbs," Rahman said. "Furthermore, our analysis of fossil evolutionary relations shows that the sea cucumbers were gradually reduced during their early evolution over 400 million years ago."
The S. cthulhu fossil is just one of many important discoveries at the Herefordshire fossil site, which is well-known for the hard and soft body structures found there.