A fossil of a 560-million-year-old creature has been named after a famous British naturalist and broadcaster.
Researchers say auroralumina attenboroughii may have been the first animal predator, or hunter.
The creature is named after 96-year-old David Attenborough who has also written many books about the natural world. He reportedly said he was “truly delighted” with the honor.
The first part of the name, auroralumina, means dawn lantern in the Latin language.
Phil Wilby studies ancient life at the British Geological Survey. He told the Associated Press it is believed that “…modern animal groups like jellyfish appeared 540 million years ago in the Cambrian explosion.”
“But this predator,” he said, “predates that by 20 million years.”
Scientists call the period between about 541 million to 530 million years ago, the Cambrian explosion. During that time, many kinds of animals and plants developed. Also during that period, creatures with hard body parts such as shells made of calcium carbonate appeared.
Wilby said it was “massively exciting” to know that the fossil was one of possibly many that can help us understand “when complex life began on Earth.”
A paleontologist studies ancient life mostly through its mineralized remains, which are known as fossils.
The fossil of the newly named creature was found in Charnwood Forest near Leicester in central England. That area is where Attenborough used to go fossil hunting.
Scientists say auroralumina attenboroughii might be the earliest creature known to have a form of skeleton. They said it is related to the animal group that includes corals, jellyfish, and anemones.
Frankie Dunn is a researcher at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. She said the fossil is very different from other fossils found in Charnwood Forest and around the world.
Dunn said, unlike most other fossils from the Cambrian period, “this one clearly has a skeleton, with densely-packed tentacles that would have waved around in the water capturing passing food, much like corals and sea anemones do today.”
I’m Anna Matteo.
The Associated Press reported on this from London. Anna Matteo adapted this story for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
fossil –n. the remains of ancient life forms that have mineralized and turned to stone
predator –n. an animal that lives by killing and eating other animals
lantern –n. a light that is usually covered by glass and can be carried around
skeleton –n. the structure of bones (or similar substance) that supports the body of an animal
tentacle –n. a long, moveable arm of soft-bodied animals like the octopus
We want to hear from you. What do you think about this story?
We have a new comment system. Here is how it works:
Write your comment in the box.
Under the box, you can see four images for social media accounts. They are for Disqus, Facebook, Twitter and Google.
Click on one image and a box appears. Enter the login for your social media account. Or you may create one on the Disqus system. It is the blue circle with “D” on it. It is free.
Each time you return to comment on the Learning English site, you can use your account and see your comments and replies to them. Our comment policy is here.