A bizarre creature found in a cocoon dates back 200 million years, according to scientists researching it. Researchers discovered the strange cocoon and teardrop-shaped creature in Antarctica recently.
The creature’s cocoon looks like one that is produced by a living leech, like the medicinal leech, reports NBC News. The animal encased inside is microscopic, extending to 25 microns (about the width of a human hair).
The bizarre creature’s tightly coiled stalk extends about 50 microns. Like all eurkaryotes, the creature held a nucleus in the shape of a large horseshoe inside its main body.
Scientists believe the organism (a bell animal) lived about 200 million years ago during the Late Triassic Period when the earth was Warmer. Dense rain forests flourished in Antarctica during that time, along the area the bizarre creature was found in a cocoon, which is now known as the Transarctic Mountain Range.
The mass of frozen land was considered to be a part of the supercontinent called Gondwana during this period, though it was still at high altitudes, much like today. LiveScience notes that, not only is the bizarre creature found in a cocoon amazing to look at, it is also a feat that the soft-bodied animal was able to survive for so long.
Scientists believe it was preserved so well because of the mucous membrane it was kept in. Study researcher and paleobotanist Benjamin Bomfleur stated, “This preservation is quite bizarre, but soft-bodied organisms cannot usually become fossilized unless they are rapidly entombed in a medium that prevents further decay.”
Other mediums like this include amber (dried resin), which perfectly preserved a spider about to attack its prey — even keeping the spider’s web structure. There is only one other example of the type of preservation seen with the bizarre Antarctic creature. The example is a 125-million-year-old cocoon that encases a nematode worm. It was discovered in Svalbard.
The discovery of the bizarre creature found in a cocoon in Antarctica was detailed in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week.