June 9, 2023 | David F. Coppedge

Cambrian Fossil Misidentified

Fossils do not interpret themselves.
It takes fallible humans.


Note: During June, reporting will be brief or intermittent. Enjoy the Search Bar, Features and back issues.

Fossil thought to be earliest bryozoan animal may actually be seaweed (New Scientist, 8 March 2023). Nope. It wasn’t an early bryozoan. It was just seaweed.

The Cambrian fossil Protomelission was identified in 2021 as a type of coral-like animal called a bryozoan, but new specimens make it look more like a kind of green algae.

The mistake is reminiscent of the object thought to be a fossil of the Ediacaran animal Dickinsonia that turned out to be the imprint of a beehive that had fallen into mud on the cave floor and then hardened (6 Feb 2023).

See also Phys.org‘s report on this mistake.

Paleontologists flip the script on anemone fossils (University of Chicago, 8 March 2023). Another case of mistaken identity was reported the same day from the University of Illinois at Chicago.  Jellyfish fossils turned out to be anemone imprints.

“It quickly became obvious that not only it wasn’t a jellyfish, but turned upside down it was clearly an anemone, probably one that burrowed into the seafloor. The ‘bell’ was actually an expanded muscular foot used to wiggle the anemone into the seafloor,” Plotnick said.


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Categories: Fossils

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