Balloon-shaped animal fossil sheds light on the depths of Earth's ancient seas

Posted by ap507 at Dec 09, 2014 12:25 PM |
‘Nidelric pugio’ named in honour of University of Leicester scientist who passed away earlier this year
Balloon-shaped animal fossil sheds light on the depths of Earth's ancient seas

Image shows the whole of Nidelric pugio, a little over 9cm long.

A rare 520 million year old fossil shaped like a ‘squashed bird’s nest’ that will help to shed new light on life within Earth’s ancient seas has been discovered in China by an international research team – and will honour the memory of Professor Richard Aldridge, a Leicester scientist who passed away earlier this year.

The research team behind the discovery was led by Professor Xianguang Hou from the Yunnan Key Laboratory for Palaeobiology at Yunnan University in China with collaboration from the Universities of Leicester and Oxford.

Professor Richard Aldridge
Image shows Professor Richard Aldridge, who passed away earlier this year, and for whom the fossil was named by his close friends and colleagues.
The fossil, from Chengjiang in southern China, is of a probable ‘chancelloriid’, a group of bizarre, balloon-shaped animals with an outer skeleton of defensive spines. The animal was flattened during the fossilisation process so that it looks like a squashed bird’s nest.

Funded by the National Science Foundation in China and the Royal Society in the UK, the research team named the species Nidelric pugio to honour the late Professor Richard Aldridge, an internationally renowned palaeontologist and keen ornithologist formerly of the Department of Geology and a scientist who was a world leader in Chengjiang fossil research.

The name of the fossil is derived from the Latin Nidus, meaning ‘bird’s nest’ or ‘fancied resemblance to’ and adelric, derived from the Old English personal name ‘Aedelic’ - ‘adel’ meaning ‘noble’ and ‘ric’ meaning ‘a ruler’- which is a source for the name Aldridge.

In southern China, rocks 520 million years old in Chengjiang County, Yunnan Province yield a diverse array of fossils preserved with traces of their soft anatomy, including their legs, eyes, guts and even brains.

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