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Newfoundland fossil is oldest with muscles

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It looks like animals were traveling around the world millions of years earlier than past fossils evidenced.

A fossil of a marine creature, not unlike a jellyfish, was discovered in Newfoundland. It is a Cnidarian, similar to today's corals, sea anemones and jellyfish. This Haootia quadriformis dates from 635 to 541 million years ago, in a time known as the Ediacaran Period.

For those keeping record, that shows that the H. quadriformis was from 20 million years before the Cambrian Explosion, the rapid evolution and spread of species around the globe. Biologists previously thought that creatures with muscles came out of that Cambrian Explosion. In fact, the locomotion that the muscles of the Haootia quadriformis would allow could mean it played an important role in the resulting biodiversity.

"The evolution of muscular animals, in possession of muscle tissues that enabled them to precisely control their movements, paved the way for the exploration of a vast range of feeding strategies, environments, and ecological niches, allowing animals to become the dominant force in global ecosystems," said Alex Liu, a researcher at Cambridge's department of Earth sciences and the study's lead.

The name Haootia, comes from the word "Haoot" in Beothuk, a language of the indigenous population of Newfoundland, which can be translated as "demon" -- used because of the fossil's appearance. Quadriform is used because of the quadrilateral symmetry, from the Latin "quadri," or fourfold, and "formis," as in form.

The study on Haootia quadriformis was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, in an article titled, "Haootia quadriformis n. gen., n. sp., interpreted as a muscular cnidarian impression from the Late Ediacaran period (approx. 560 Ma)." The article was authored by Alexander G. Liu, Jack J. Matthews, Latha R. Menon, Duncan McIlroy and Martin D. Brasier.

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