26 January 2012

A new life form discovered in Canada

The Burgess Shale continues to produce amazing fossils.  PhysOrg has a summary:
Officially named Siphusauctum gregarium, fossils reveal a tulip-shaped creature that is about the length of a dinner knife (approximately 20 centimetres or eight inches) and has a unique filter feeding system.

Siphusauctum has a long stem, with a calyx – a bulbous cup-like structure – near the top which encloses an unusual filter feeding system and a gut. The animal is thought to have fed by filtering particles from water actively pumped into its calyx through small holes... Most interesting is that this feeding system appears to be unique among animals.
And some additional details from EarthTimes:

Siphusauctum gregarium looked like a tulip, about 20cm (or 8ins) long, filter feeding from the floor of the sea. The body or "calyx" is enclosed by a sheath, with six small filtering holes and a terminal anus. It has a large stomach, followed by a conical gut and straight section of intestine. Six radially-symmetrical sections contain the filtering combs... Only the stomach, and anus of the digestive tract show any phylogenetic relationships, but exactly which relationship is up in the air. Hence the new family, new genus, new species, in fact, new everything.
TL;DR - it's like a tulip with an anus.  Next fossil, please.

Reconstruction image artwork: © Marianne Collins.


  1. What an amazingly flip ending remark. It's only vaguely tulip-shaped. It's an animal, not a vegetable with a butt hole.

    1. I understand; that's why I put "animal" in boldface twice. But I've added "like" to the TLDR to try to lessen the flipness.

  2. I would have thought that this was a slam dunk crinoid. I wonder what the difference is.

  3. It doesn't have tentacles, which I think are among the defining criteria for crinoids. Related -



    1. Just read the linked article. Didn't realize they were Burgess Shale fossils, so they're too old to be crinoids. Also, crinoids are echinoderms so they wouldn't have tentacles as much as feeding arms that radiate out from the calyx. Pretty cool discovery nonetheless!

  4. I think you got scooped by a seven year old on this one:


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