Two-meter arthropods dominated the seas 470 million years ago

(ORDO NEWS) — During paleontological excavations in southern Morocco, scientists discovered fossils of giant free-swimming arthropods. Some of them belong to as yet undescribed species.

The discovery allows a fresh look at the marine fauna 470 million years ago, which was dominated by two-meter relatives of modern crustaceans and insects.

The Taichouta region in southern Morocco was submerged about 470 million years ago. Now there is a desert: while excavating in it, scientists from the University of Exeter (UK) discovered numerous remains of large free-swimming arthropods.

More research is needed to analyze these fragments, but it is already clear that these giant creatures reached two meters in length.

The first arthropods appeared in the Earth‘s oceans, probably around 530-550 million years ago. Scientists have long been interested in the question: when did they begin to dominate the ecosystems of the Earth’s seas?

After all, understanding this is extremely important for studying the evolution of modern insects, crustaceans and other invertebrates.

At a distance of 80 kilometers from Taichuta, the Feyzuata shales, well known to paleontologists, are located, but their fossil record is very different from new finds.

Although some of the fossils are likely to belong to previously described Fezuat biota, most are likely to be new species.

Their sheer size and free-living lifestyle suggest that they played a critical role in the ancient ecosystem.

The Fezuat Shale is considered one of the 100 most important geological features in the world, as it plays a crucial role in understanding the evolution of early Ordovician animals.

Fossils found in these rocks include mineralized elements as well as exceptionally well-preserved animal soft parts such as internal organs.

This allows scientists to explore the anatomy of the early representatives of the Earth’s fauna.

Animals from the Fezuat Shale lived in shallow water, which was subjected to constant storms, which buried benthic and sessile organisms in the ground.

But there were practically no floating organisms among the fossils. In contrast, the Taichuta fossils are dominated by free-swimming arthropods.

Mollusc remains were attached to some of their fragments, indicating that their large shells served as food reserves for the inhabitants of the seabed even after their death.

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