A brand new research by researchers from Durham College and Yunnan College reveals that penis worms (Priapulida) invented the ‘hermit’ way of life, some 500 million years in the past, on the rise of the earliest animal ecosystems within the Cambrian interval.
Hermit crabs are well-known for using snail shells as shelters in opposition to predators, however researchers have now discovered that penis worms invented the ‘hermit’ way of life a whole lot of million years earlier than hermit crabs first advanced.
Researchers studied collections of the Guanshan fossil deposits – well-known as a result of they protect tender tissue (such because the our bodies of worms) alongside the shelly materials that makes up the standard fossil report.
4 specimens of the penis worm Eximipriapulus had been discovered inside conical shells of hyoliths, a long-extinct fossil group.
“The worms are all the time sitting snugly inside these identical varieties of shells, in the identical place and orientation,” explains Dr. Martin Smith, co-author of the research.
The researchers established that Cambrian predators had been plentiful and aggressive, forcing the penis worms to take everlasting shelter in empty shells.
Dr. Smith expands: “The one rationalization that made sense was that these shells had been their properties – one thing that got here as an actual shock. Not lengthy earlier than these organisms existed, there was nothing alive extra advanced than seaweeds or jellyfish: so it’s mind-boggling that we begin to see the advanced and harmful ecologies normally related to a lot youthful geological intervals so quickly after the primary advanced animals arrive on the scene.”
The analysis signifies the important thing function of predators in shaping ecology and conduct within the very early levels of animal evolution.
The research findings shall be printed within the journal Present Biology.
A “hermiting” way of life has by no means been documented or noticed in residing or fossil penis worms; nor has it been instantly noticed in any organism residing sooner than the ‘Mesozoic Marine Revolution’ in the age of dinosaurs.
The fact that it evolved independently in the immediate aftermath of the “Cambrian explosion,” which marked the rapid rise of modern animal body plans, highlights the remarkable speed and flexibility of the evolutionary process.
Reference: “A ‘hermit’ shell-dwelling lifestyle in a Cambrian priapulan worm” by Xiao-yu Yang, Martin R. Smith, Jie Yang, Wei Li, Qing-hao Guo, Chun-li Li, Yu Wang and Xi-guang Zhang, 8 November 2021, Current Biology.