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A whole mess of new

Filed under:General — eric @ 4:34 am

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A whole mess of new undersea species, including many “living fossils”, have recently been discovered on isolated sea mounts south of Tasmania. (Published in this week’s Nature, registration required.) This includes several new species of Crinoids, also called Sea Lillies. Those are the animals that look like flowers you always see drawn in pictures showing ancient ocean bottoms crawling with trilobites. I’ve long liked Crinoids — the modern species are beautiful creatures, and when I took a paleontology class (focusing on simple sea life) crinoid bits were a common sight on our field trips. One trouble with studying fossil crinoids is when they die, they disintegrate into small stoney bits. The stem is made of disks with a hole in the middle and ridges like poker chips. Those are pretty common (known as “indian beads” sometimes, because to the uninformed, they look like that’s what they could be), but you can’t tell what species they came from. The only way to identify one is to find an intact head (”calyx”), and my professor told us we’d never find one of those. The next week, I did find one on one of our field trips. It remains one of my most exciting moments (I’m a nerd, through and through), and I’ve got the fossil in a box in my house.

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