Chinese, US scientists find ‘leaves’ in ocean floor 550 million years ago

Nanjing, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) — Wang Jue-bin The nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) has discovered four leaf-like creatures in the SLATE flats of the Three Gorges Region of Hubei province, according to the institute’s early life research team. Unlike the leaves that actually grow on branches, these “leaves” are actually curiously shaped early animals that lived at the bottom of the ancient ocean.

The four species, which lived at the bottom of the sea about 550 million years ago, are now extinct, said Pang Ke, an associate researcher with the Nanbu Institute of Paleontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who was involved in the study. Morphologically, the four species are roughly similar, with a body length of about 10 centimeters and a leaf-like appearance.

Uniquely, these ancient “leaves” have rounded suckers at the bottom. They stick to the bottom of the sea with suction cups, while the stem and leaf parts of the leaves stand upright in the water. At ordinary times, these sea floor “leaves” sway with the water. The researchers speculate that they feed by absorbing small particles of organic matter from seawater as they sway.

“About 550 million years ago, these undersea ‘leaves’ were a particularly large and widespread group of organisms. But to this day, little is known about their biological properties. They predate what is known as the Cambrian Explosion. Unraveling the mystery of these ancient undersea ‘leaves’ may provide important clues to the evolution of early life.” PangKe said.

The findings were published recently in the International Journal of Paleontology. (after)