Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Named after David Attenborough, the ‘oldest animal hunter’

The fossil was found in the Charnwood Forest near Leicester in central England, where Attenborough fossils were known to hunt.

David Attenborough

Sir David Attenborough poses for a photograph after being appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George after an ornamentation ceremony at Windsor Castle in Windsor, England. (Photo: Associated Press)

A fossil of a 560-million-year-old creature, which researchers believe to be the first animal hunter, has been named after British naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough.

Scientists said Monday that they believe the specimen, named Auroralumina attenboroughi, is the earliest animal known to have a skeleton. It belongs to the group that includes coral, jellyfish and anemones, he says.

“It is generally believed that modern animal groups such as jellyfish appeared in the Cambrian explosion 540 million years ago,” said Phil Wilby, a paleontologist with the British Geological Survey. “But this predator predates by 20 million years.”

He said it was “massively exciting” to learn that the fossil was probably one of many that hold the key to “when complex life began on Earth”.

The fossil was found in the Charnwood Forest near Leicester in central England, where Attenborough fossils were known to hunt.

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The 96-year-old said he is “really happy.”

Frankie Dunn of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History said the specimen was very different from other fossils found in Charnwood Forest and around the world.

Dunn said, unlike most other fossils from the Cambrian period, “it clearly has a skeleton, with densely-packed tentacles that capture food while moving in the water, as do corals and sea anemones today.” “

The first part of the creature’s name is Latin for dawn lantern, similar to its great age and burning torch.

The Cambrian explosion, which occurred about 541 million to 530 million years ago, was an evolutionary explosion that saw the emergence of a large diversity of animals. During this time many organisms developed rigid body parts such as calcium carbonate shells.

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