Bizarre Creature In Ancient Cocoon: 200-Million-Year-Old Animal Discovered In Antarctica [PHOTO]

By Amir Khan on December 9, 2012 8:34 AM EST

Bizarre Creature
A bizarre creature in an ancient cocoon was discovered in Antarctica (Photo: Benjamin Bomfleur)

A bizarre creature in an ancient cocoon was discovered in Antarctica, and this bizarre creature in the ancient cocoon is unlike anything ever seen before. Researchers working in Antarctica discovered the bizarre creature in an ancient cocoon early this year, but were never able to identify it until very recently.

The bizarre creature in the ancient cocoon is a species of Vorticella, a protozoa characterized by their bell shape and bizarre stalk.  The bizarre creature in the ancient cocoon has a width of 25 micros, approximately the size of a human hair, and was immaculately persevered over the last 200-million-years, despite being a soft-bodied organism.

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"This preservation is quite bizarre, but soft-bodied organisms cannot usually become fossilized unless they are rapidly entombed in a medium that prevents further decay," Benjamin Bomfleur, study author and researcher with Biodiversity Institute at the University of Kansas, told LiveScience.

The bizarre creature in the ancient cocoon was preserved by a leech, researchers said. Many leeches excrete a sticky substance, and 200-million-years ago, a leech managed to capture this bizarre creature in an ancient cocoon.

"A leech secreted a mucous cocoon that was deposited under water or in wet leaf litter, somewhere in a river system which lay in present-day Antarctica," Bomfluer said. "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."

The bizarre creature in the ancient cocoon likely lived during the Late Triassic Period, researchers said, and had what is known as the "fastest cellular engine." The stalk on the bizarre creature on the ancient cocoon is able to contract from a telephone wire shape to a tight coil at a speed of 8 centimeters per second -- the equivalent of a human walking three football fields in a second.

The researchers published their findings on the bizarre creature in the ancient cocoon in the journal PLoS ONE.

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