About 200 million years ago, a leech released a slimy mucous cocoon that unwittingly encased and trapped a bizarre animal with a springy tail, preserving it for eternity, or until researchers discovered the teardrop-shape creature in Antarctica recently. CREDIT: Benjamin Bomfleur

About 200 million years ago, a leech released a slimy mucous cocoon that unwittingly encased and trapped a bizarre animal with a springy tail, preserving it for eternity, or until researchers discovered the teardrop-shape creature in Antarctica recently.
CREDIT: Benjamin Bomfleur

200 Million Year Old Creature Found In Antarctica

Preserved in a slimy mucous covered cocoon, scientists have uncovered a bizarre creature 200 million years old in Antarctica.

This tear shaped organism with a long, springy tale was trapped inside a cocoon that looks much like that produced by a living leech.

Live Science writes:

The cocoon looks like those produced by living leeches, such as the medicinal leech Hirudo medicinalis. Encased inside was a bell animal that looked similar to species in the genus Vorticella; its body extends 25 microns (about the width of some human hairs) with a tightly coiled stalk about twice that long. And like all eurkaryotes, the organism was equipped with a nucleus — in this case, a large horseshoe-shaped nucleus inside the main body. (A micron is one-millionth of a meter.)

“The cocoon with the such-enclosed bell animal then was deposited in mud that over time turned into the sedimentary layer where we found it some 200 million years later,” study researcher Benjamin Bomfleur told LiveScience.

Much similar to the species in the genus Vorticella this organism from the Late Triassic Period contains a horseshoe-shaped nucleus and is about the width of a human hair with a stalk-like tail at least twice as long.

Scientists believe its ability to survive came from the fact that it was encased inside this leech’s cocoon.

The organism was able to attach itself to the cocoon and was then trapped inside.

Identifying the bizarre creature

According to Live Science, When Bomfleur first discovered the bizare creature in samples he’d collected from Antarctica, he didn’t know what he was looking at and didn’t have time to consult with an expert in such microfossils, as he was working on his doctoral degree.

“Later this year, however, I finally found the time to look for someone with an expertise on freshwater microorganisms in order to get an expert opinion on the thing,” Bomfleur said, adding he contacted Ojvind Moestrup of the University of Copenhagen.

Bomfleur recalled Moestrup looking at the fossil and saying, “It is often very hard or impossible to identify microfossils, but this one was easy. It is the ciliate Vorticella and the helical structure is the stalk.”

The case containing the organism was hardened and deposited in layers of mud which over time became a sedimentary layer.

200 million years later it was discovered by scientists making it the oldest preservation ever discovered.

The discovery of the bizarre creature found in a cocoon in Antarctica has been detailed in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week.