Fossil find resolves ancient extinction mystery
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Posted 13 May 2010 - 12:51 PM
Researchers have revealed remarkably well preserved fossils of soft-bodied marine creatures that are between 470 and 480 million years old. Prior to this find, scientists were unsure whether such creatures died out in an extinction event during an earlier period known as the Cambrian.
The fossils were preserved in rocks formed by layers of ancient marine mud in south-eastern Morocco. They are described in the latest issue of the journal Nature. The research team that studied the fossils described them as marine animals that lived during the early part of a period that followed the Cambrian, known as the Ordovician.
Professor Derek Briggs from Yale University in New Haven, US, who was an author of the study, told BBC News that the discovery provided "a much more complete record of early marine life than we've every had before". The creatures, he explained, closely matched those found in the Burgess Shale of British Columbia, a locality in Yoho National Park, which is famous for yielding rare fossils of soft-bodied marine creatures from the Middle Cambrian period.
"There was an anomaly in the fossil record," said Dr Peter Van Roy, the lead researcher on the study, who is also based at Yale University. "Most of these animals just seemed to disappear at the end of the Middle Cambrian."
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