Ancient comb jellies might have had skeletons | Science News

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Ancient comb jellies might have had skeletons

Chinese fossils hint at rigid framework for filmy sea creatures

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2:16pm, July 10, 2015
Comb jellies

SOFT LIFE  Comb jellies alive today, like this Mnemiopsis mccradyi common in the Gulf of Mexico, have soft bodies, but fossils hint that their ancient relatives had skeletons.

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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

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