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Tiptoe Through the (Cambrian) Tulips


Writing in PLoS ONE, researchers at the University of Toronto report on the discovery of a new oddity from the seas of the Cambrian era, found in the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale, a peculiar animal (Siphusauctum gregarium) that looked strangely like a tulip. It had "a long stem, with a calyx -- a bulbous cup-like structure -- near the top," "a unique filter feeding system," a length equal to that "of a dinner knife," "a small disc which anchored the animal to the seafloor."

And, like all other products of the Cambrian explosion to date, no known pre-Cambrian ancestors.

Image credit: O'Brien LJ, Caron J-B (2012) A New Stalked Filter-Feeder from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale, British Columbia, Canada. PLoS ONE 7(1): e29233. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029233