It is being reported that rare, tiny, round fossils discovered in the southern part of China appear to be at least 500 million years old and are the embryos of some kind of formerly unknown animal. The fossils are from the Cambrian period. This era dates from around 550 million to 480 million years ago and is best known for an eruption of diversity.
Organisms which came on the scene during this time period included the bug looking trilobite, had exoskeletons and many other hard body parts that were able to fossil very well. Other animals which arrived at that stage included worms and sponges. Their bodies were made out of soft fleshy tissue which hardly ever was able to fossilize.
Scientists, Jesse Broce, who is employed at Virginia Tech, James Schiffbauer, who works at the University of Missouri, and numerous associates were looking for the extremely rare soft tissue organisms inside of limestone, when they were digging in the Hubei province of southern China. This was when the group discovered something that was even rarer. They found small spheres, even some that had polygonal shapes on their surfaces.
The tiny fossils were most likely believed to be the petrified embryos, the researchers reported in the March issue of the Journal of Paleontology. The fossils were thought to be from the third stage of the Cambrian era.
Dr. Schiffbauer explained that the team discovered over 135 round shaped fossils, some of which included features which were suggestive of embryos in one stage of division, basically frozen for all time. The research group started their investigation by making an attempt to obtain the fossils out of the limestone in China with acid, but by doing that ended up causing extreme damage and also destroyed some of the fossils. The scientists then began to hand chisel the rock into centimeter or millimeter sized pieces, uncovering the surfaces of the fossils physically.
From that point, the scientists explored the orbs with various different techniques, such as slicing them up in thin slices, which are able to be viewed under a microscope. The researchers also imaged the fossils with electron microscopy scanning so to be able to put them under X-rays.
The outcomes ended up showing specimens that had a pocket rich in phosphate which encompassed a sphere of calcite, and any organic compounds which once helped make up the embryos long since had mineralized. Some of the orbs had polygonal shapes which appeared very close in appearance to those that were on other fossilized embryos located in the same area and were a kind of worm-like creature. The scientists think the samples are blastulas, which are an early, multicellular period of development for embryos.
However it is a mystery what the embryos would have been when they were born. The tiny, round rare fossils discovered in the southern part of China appear to be at least 500 million years old and are the embryos of an animals which is unknown at this time.
By Kimberly Ruble