Paleontology

Hematite tubes (Image courtesy Matthew Dodd, University College London)

An article published in the journal “Nature” describes what might be the oldest life forms discovered so far. An international team led by Matthew Dodd studied tiny filaments and tubes they think were formed by bacteria living on iron and were found in the layers of quartz in the Nuvvuagittuq Belt in Quebec, Canada. However, this research has already raised a controversy.

Websteroprion armstrongi fossil (Photo courtesy Luke Parry)

An article published in the journal “Scientific Reports” describes the discovery of a primitive worm with jaws that are huge compared to its body’s size. Called Websteroprion armstrongi, it was studied by a team of researchers after a fossil specimen was discovered at the Royal Ontario Museum, where it was stored in the mid ’80s. It seems to belong to the class of polychaetes (Polychaeta), a marine relative of earthworms and leeches that lived about 400 million years ago.

An article published in the journal “Palaeontology” opens a dispute on the classification of Tullimonstrum gregarium, a strange marine animal that lived about 300 million years ago, commonly known as the Tully monster. During 2016, two research brought arguments to support the thesis that this animal was a vertebrate but now a group of paleobiologists led by Lauren Sallan of the University of Pennsylvania brought counter-arguments.

Hatzegopteryx thambema reconstruction (Image Mark Witton)

An article published in the journal “PeerJ” describes a research on a giant pterosaur that lived in today’s Transylvania in the last part of the Cretaceous period. Called Hatzegopteryx thambema, according to Dr Mark Witton, from the University of Portsmouth and Dr Darren Naish from University of Southampton, who examined its fossilized remains, it was likely the dominant predator in its environment.

Saccorhytus coronariusm reconstruction (Image courtesy Jian Han)

An article published in the journal “Nature” describes the identification of what is considered humans’ oldest known ancestor. Called Saccorhytus coronariusm, 45 specimens were discovered during excavations carried out in today’s Shaanxi Province, China. This animal had a length around a millimeter, lived 540 million years ago and is the ancestor of deuterostomes, which include vertebrates, echinoderms and other animals.