Chinese fossils hint at rigid framework for filmy sea creatures
Gregory G. Dimijian/Science Source
Comb jellies, just globes of shimmering film in today’s oceans, may have had rigid skeletons and hard plates millions of years ago.
Scientists analyzed fossils some 520 million years old from the Chengjiang site in China representing six species of comb jellies, or ctenophores. The fossils show signs of hard parts, such as rigid spokes and hardened plates, says Qiang Ou of China University of Geosciences in Beijing. He and his colleagues report the finding July 10 in Science Advances. Until now, biologists have thought of comb jellies as soft bodied, so the fossils reveal an “unexpected lost history,” Ou says.
“Exciting,” says paleontologist Stefan Bengtson of the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm. The notion of long-ago rigid parts “may help explain why these animals, now represented by forms