News

University graduate involved in discovery of rare 450 million yearold coneshaped fossil

Researchers from our University, working with an international team of geologists, have discovered an enigmatic fossil of a 450 million year-old creature resembling a tiny ice-cream cone.

Fossils of the creature, in which the ‘body’ resembles a scoop of ice cream atop the cone, was located in the Appalachian Mountains, near Hummelstown in Pennsylvania from the Ordovician period.

Intriguingly, the rocks in which the fossil was found have been ‘cooked’ during mountain building, which usually hinders fossil preservation.

Discovered by consulting geologist Bob Ganis, who obtained his PhD from our University, and Mike Meyer of the Carnegie Institute of Science, it has now been described in a paper published in the journal Palaios by them and co-authors Professor Jan Zalasiewicz of the University of Leicester, Jacalyn Wittmer of the State University of New York, Geneseo and Kenneth de Baets of Geozentrum Nordbayern in Erlangen Germany.

The paper discusses the possibilities of this newly found soft-bodied creature, which lived among the plankton before being carried to the sea floor and buried within mud slurries.

“Was this creature an important but usually unpreserved part of ocean life, or just a bit player among the Ordovician animal communities?" asks Professor Jan Zalasiewicz from our School of Geography, Geology and the Environment. "It is a new puzzle for palaeontologists.”

 

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