Researchers discover Silurian relative of the Cambrian lobopod Hallucigenia

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A virtual reconstruction of Thanahita distos.
A virtual reconstruction of Thanahita distos. (Image credit: Derek Siveter et al)

Yale paleontologist Derek Briggs was part of a research team that identified Thanahita distos, a new species of lobopodian, an ancient relative of modern-day onychophorans, or velvet worms. Thanahita distos was discovered and reconstructed as a virtual fossil using physical-optical tomography. It came from 430 million-year-old Silurian rocks in Herefordshire, England and it is the first marine lobopodian to be formally described from the Silurian. Its closest relative is the iconic Cambrian lobopod Hallucigenia.

The findings were published Aug. 8 in the Royal Society journal Open Science. The first author is Derek Siveter of the University of Oxford, and additional authors are from the University of Leicester, Imperial College London, and the University of Manchester.