Wales: Extraordinary discovery: researchers find more than 460 million year old animals in sheep pasture

Researchers in Wales have made an amazing discovery: two fossils believed to be among the first of their kind in Europe.

Wales: Extraordinary discovery: researchers find more than 460 million year old animals in sheep pasture

Researchers in Wales have made an amazing discovery: two fossils believed to be among the first of their kind in Europe.

The fossils were in rocks that were probably deposited under the sea more than 460 million years ago. At that time what is now central Wales was covered by the sea, explains the Museum Wales in a press release. The researchers Dr. Joseph Botting and Dr. Lucy Muir found the fossils in a sheep pasture. The larger of the two is 13 millimeters long, the smaller just 3 millimeters.

So far, the museum is undecided whether the fossils found are the first opabiniads found in Europe, or whether they are a separate animal species. In understanding the evolution of arthropods (a phylum that includes crabs and insects that have an exoskeleton and many articulated legs), this could be "crucially important," the release said.

The Opabinia genus lived in water in Canada 500 million years ago and had a soft body with a long, narrow trunk. On either side they had a series of flaps that were probably used for swimming. Also, they had several pairs with triangular legs on the bottom.

The long, tube-like noses are particularly noticeable for opabiniads. It is believed that they used this to pick up bits of food from the seabed and carry it to their mouth, which was behind the nose on the underside of the head.

One of the fossil animals has now been given the name Mieridduryn bonniae, named in honor of Bonnie, the niece of the owner of the property where the fossil was found. The rest of the name is made up of the Welsh words "mier" (in English: blackberry) and "duryn" (in English: trunk).

Sources: Museum Wales, BBC

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