Washington: Scientists claim to have discovered in the Canadian Rockies a bizarre tulip-shaped creature -- about the length of a dinner knife -- that lived in the ocean over 500 million years ago.
A team from the University of Toronto and Royal Ontario Museum in Canada says that fossils, which emerged in Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale, reveal that the creature, Siphusauctum gregarium, has a unique filter feeding system, the `PLoS ONE` journal reported.
Siphusauctum has a long stem, with a calyx -- a bulbous cup-like structure -- near the top that encloses an unusual filter feeding system and a gut.
The animal is thought to have fed by filtering particles from water actively pumped into its calyx through small holes.
The stem ends with a small disc which anchored the animal to seafloor. It lived in large clusters, as indicated by slabs containing over 65 individual specimens, say the scientists.
"Most interesting is that this feeding system appears to be unique among animals. Recent advances have linked many bizarre Burgess Shale animals as primitive members of many
animal groups that are found today, but Siphusauctum defies this trend.
"We do not know where it fits in relation to other organisms. Our description is based on more than 1,100 fossil specimens from a new Burgess Shale locality that has been nicknamed the Tulip Beds," team leader Lorna O`Brien said.
Located in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, the Tulip Beds were first discovered in 1983 by the Royal Ontario Museum. They are located high on Mount Stephen, overlooking the town of Field.