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Hallucigenia's Head Identified, Reconstruction Looks Like Pokemon

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A new study of an otherworldly creature from half a billion years ago – a worm-like animal with legs, spikes and a head difficult to distinguish from its tail – has definitively identified its head for the first time, and revealed a previously unknown ring of teeth and a pair of simple eyes. The results, published today in the journal Nature, have helped scientists reconstruct what the common ancestor of everything from tiny roundworms to huge lobsters might have looked like. Researchers from the University of Cambridge, the Royal Ontario Museum and the University of Toronto have found that the creature, known as Hallucigenia due to its strange appearance, had a throat lined with needle-like teeth, a previously unidentified feature which could help connect the dots between it, modern velvet worms and arthropods – the group which contains modern insects, spiders and crustaceans. Arthropods, velvet worms (onychophorans) and water bears (tardigrades) all belong to the massive group of animals that moult, known as ecdysozoans. Though Hallucigenia is not the common ancestor of all ecdysozoans, it is a precursor to velvet worms. Finding this mouth arrangement in Hallucigenia helped scientists determine that velvet worms originally had the same configuration – but it was eventually lost through evolution. “The early evolutionary history of this huge group is pretty much uncharted,” said Dr Martin Smith, a postdoctoral researcher in Cambridge’s Department of Earth Sciences, and the paper’s lead author. “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.” “It turns out that the ancestors of moulting animals were much more anatomically advanced than we ever could have imagined: ring-like, plate-bearing worms with an armoured throat and a mouth surrounded by spines,” said Dr Jean-Bernard Caron, Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum and Associate Professor in the Departments of Earth Sciences and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto. “We previously thought that neither velvet worms nor their ancestors had teeth. But Hallucigenia tells us that actually, velvet worm ancestors had them, and living forms just lost their teeth over time.”

 

 

Here.

Hallucigenia-990x1052.jpg

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