Giant sea cumcumber species named after H.P. Lovecraft creature 'Cthulhu'

Mindy Sparks
Апреля 11, 2019

Cthulhu is calling from the ancient depths - and this time, researchers are only too happy to speak its name.

This was the first hint that the 430-million-year-old marine creature was likely related to sea cucumbers, who possess similar fluid-filled canals that carry nutrients and enable movement.

Because of its many tentacles, the new organism was named Sollasina cthulhu, in honour of the monster from the works of Howard Lovecraft., according to the CNET portal.

The research was published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Researchers ground the fossil, layer by layer, to create a 3D reconstruction of Sollasina cthulhu (the tube feet are shown in different colors).

A fossil of the creature, which belonged to a now extinct group called ophiocistioids, was uncovered from a fossil-rich site in the United Kingdom off the coast of Herefordshire.

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

Paleontologists have identified a 430 million-year-old fossil as a new species that is related to sea cucumbers, and the odd creature reminded them so much of H.P. Lovecraft's fictional cosmic entity, Cthulhu, that they made a decision to name it Sollasina cthulhu.

The 3D reconstruction process involves grinding a fossil away, layer by layer, and taking photographs at each stage. The resulting hundreds of images are then digitally reconstructed until a "virtual fossil" is created. Only about 3 cm wide, its many-tentacled "face" would have been intimidating to any other comparable sea life at the time as it used its many-tentacles to move around the sea-floor and capture food. "Moreover, our analysis of the fossil's evolutionary relationships demonstrates that the skeleton of sea cucumbers was gradually reduced during their early evolution over 400 million years ago".

A team of global palaeontologists led by the Oxford University Museum of Natural History have discovered the extremely well-preserved remains of an ancient relative of the marine invertebrates known as sea cucumbers. "To our surprise, the results suggest it was an ancient sea cucumber", Dr. Jeffrey Thompson, Royal Society Newton International Fellow at University College London and study co-author, said in the University of Oxford press release.

The fossil was described by an global team of researchers from Oxford University Museum of Natural History, University of Southern California, Yale University, University of Leicester, and Imperial College London.

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