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An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Ancient Animals Unearthed
28 October 1996 8:00 pm
DENVER--Scientists have excavated near the Arctic Circle in Russia what they believe are the oldest fossils of a mollusk-like animal. The fossils, dated between 550 million and 560 million years old, are the first examples of such animals in the Precambrian period, which has a notoriously sparse fossil record.
In a presentation at the Geological Society of America meeting here, grad student Bruce Waggoner of the University of California, Berkeley, said the living animal likely had a firm shell surrounded by softer ruffles that might have been gill-like structures. The fossils appear to have a mollusk-like mouth and may have had muscles under their shell similar to those of modern-day mollusks. To get an idea of what the 8-centimeter creature might have looked like, says Waggoner, imagine an Elizabethan person with a frilly collar "wearing a hard hat that's too large."
Waggoner and a team from the Paleontological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow unearthed more than 20 fossils on the coast of the White Sea, just below the Arctic Circle, in 1994. The number of specimens allowed them to reconstruct with some confidence the shape of the living animal, which is 20 million to 30 million years older than the previously oldest known mollusk.
Paleontologists have gathered many fossils of what appear to be mollusk tracks from the Precambrian period, says University of California, Berkeley, biologist James Valentine, who's not affiliated with the group. "But this is the first time an actual body has been found," he says. The jury is still out, however, on whether Waggoner truly has found a mollusk. "It looks very promising, but it's hard to know for sure," says University of California, Los Angeles, geologist Bruce Runnegar.