Newly Discovered Sea Creature Fossil Named After Cthulhu

Katie Ramirez
April 11, 2019

Complete with soft parts, the fossilised remains were found in volcanic ash deposits that accumulated in what is now the county of Herefordshire near the Welsh Border.

In all, it boasts 45 tube-like tentacles which researchers say were capable of sucking up food and helping attach to the ocean floor.

Palaeontologists have discovered the fossilised remains of a tentacled, spider-like sea creature now named "cthulhu".

"Sollasina belongs to an extinct group called the ophiocistioids, and this new material provides the first information on the group's internal structures".

An global team of researchers, including minds from Yale, Imperial College London, Oxford, and other institutions, have identified a new species of sea creature that crawled along the sea floor hundreds of millions of years ago. "With the aid of high-resolution physical-optical tomography, we describe the species in 3D, revealing internal elements of the water vascular system that were previously unknown in this group and, indeed, in almost all fossil echinoderms".

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To get a better understanding of what the ancient species looked like, scientists ground away at the fossil layer-by-layer, taking a photograph of each layer.

Originally, scientists thought ophiocistioids were most closely related to sea urchins, but the latest research - published this week in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B - suggests sea cucumbers are Sollasina cthulhu's closest relatives. "This allowed us to build up a dataset of hundreds of "slices" through the fossil, which were then digitally reconstructed as a "virtual fossil" on a computer".

That's how the researchers were able to discern Sollasina's internal water vascular system and determine it is more closely related to sea cucumbers rather than to sea urchins. "The tube feet of living echinoderms are naked, but in the ophiocistioids they were plated". In addition, it used tentacles for movement.

Boffins claim its diet likely consisted of algae and other tiny microorganisms - just like modern sea cucumbers.

The slices of the ancient cucumber - as well as the 3D reconstruction of its living form - are now being held at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. "This includes an inner ring-like form that has never been described in the group before", Dr. Imran Rahman, deputy head of research at Oxford University Museum of Natural History and the study's lead author, said in the University of Oxford press release. Other authors are Jeffrey Thompson of University College London, David Siveter of the University of Leicester, Derek Siveter of Oxford, and Mark Sutton of Imperial College London.

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