NEW HAVEN, Conn., May 12 (UPI) — A Moroccan fossil trove suggests soft-bodied distant relatives of crustaceans lived beyond the Cambrian period, U.S. and Canadian researchers say.
Similar creatures were known to exist in the Middle Cambrian period in such far-flung locales as British Columbia, China and Greenland but were thought to have died out 488 million years ago. Derek Briggs of Yale University said the Moroccan find indicates they lived tens of millions of years beyond that.
The find is significant, Briggs said, because there’s a huge gap in data since fossils generally consist of just hard parts of animals, such as shells.
The team discovered 50 types of soft-bodied animals at 40 sites in the Draa Valley in southern Morocco. Similar creatures first were uncovered in the Canadian Rockies in British Columbia, including halkieriids, Halucigenia and Opabina.
“It’s like getting a photo album rather than just a snapshot,” said Graham Young, a paleontologist at the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg, Canada.
The find dates the appearance of horseshoe crabs 30 million years earlier than had been thought, the researchers said.
The research appears in the current issue of Nature.
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