Planet Earth

Drakozoon in 3D! Scientists Take a Look at an Ancient Sea Blob

DiscoblogBy Joseph CalamiaAug 4, 2010 4:51 PM

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The Silurian Period, 425 million years ago: As volcanic ash rained down on proto-England, a sea blob named Drakozoon gave its last. Now, using a computer model, scientists have finally witnessed what the soft-bodied ancient looked like in 3D. Researchers first found a Drakozoon fossil six years ago in Herefordshire Lagerstätte, home to England's mother-load of soft-bodied fossils. Such fossils are rare since most of these creatures decompose before a fossil can form.To capitalize on the find, a team chopped the Drakozoon fossil into 200 pieces, photographed those slices, and used a computer to construct a rotatable image of the old softy.

They found that Drakozoon, which was little more than a tenth of an inch long, had a hood that it wrapped around itself to ward off predators, and had tentacles for snaring microscopic food bits out of neighboring water. The researchers also noted that Drakozoon had eight ridges on the sides of its body, what they believe could be vestiges of an evolutionary step up from creatures with repeating body segments, similar to modern-day caterpillars. The critter was described in the journal Biology Letters.

Mark Sutton, from the Imperial College London's earth science and engineering department, said in a college press release:

“Excitingly, our 3D model brings back to life a creature that until recently no one knew even existed. . .”

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Image: Imperial College London

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