The Sciences

520 Million-Year-Old "Walking Cactus" Could Be Forerunner of Arthropods

80beatsBy Andrew MosemanFeb 23, 2011 7:00 PM

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From DISCOVER blogger Ed Yong:

Around 520 million years ago, a walking cactus roamed the Earth. Its body had nine segments, each bearing a pair of armour-plated legs, covered in thorns. It was an animal, but one that looked more like the concoction of a bad fantasy artist. Jianni Liu from Northwest University in Xi’an discovered this bundle of spines and named it Dianiacactiformis – the “walking cactus from Yunnan”. And she thinks that it sits at the roots of the most successful group of animals on the planet.

If Liu is right, Diania is one of the earliest relatives of the arthropods – the group that includes insects, spiders, crabs, and more. These species all share a segmented body, a hard external skeleton and jointed legs. They are life’s winners, the most diverse of all animal groups.

For plenty more about this weird ancient armored creature, check out the rest of Ed's post

at Not Exactly Rocket Science. Related Content: Not Exactly Rocket Science: Death from disorder: scientists uncover secret of the velvet worm’s quick-setting slime

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Image: Nature

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