Fossils Found at Bacon Cove Change History

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Bacon Cove fossils have the potential to change the history of squid and octopuses. The 522 million-year-old oval-shaped creatures were discovered in rock.

A collection of fossils discovered in Bacon Cove, Newfoundland, and now permanently preserved in the province’s natural history collection, might rewrite the evolutionary history of deep-sea species such as squid and octopus.

The small specimens, which are just a few millimeters long, might represent the remnants of the planet’s earliest cephalopods.

They push back the beginnings of cephalopods by roughly 30 million years, as stated by Nathalie Djan-Chékar, natural history collections manager at The Rooms. She offered CBC/Radio-Canada a firsthand look at the fossils in December.

The aim is to maintain these specimens in the province so people can view them and study them, as she added about the hundreds of fossils, taxidermied caribou heads, and rows upon rows of bottled tentacles held at the collection, a hidden bunker on Merrymeeting Road in St. John’s.

Long, Long Time Ago when Earth had a Different Face

Last March, German researchers Anne Hildenbrand and Gregor Austermann of the University of Heidelberg revealed in Communications Biology that they had found the cone-shaped fossils in a stratum of granite 522 million years old at Bacon Cove, Conception Bay.

If these are cephalopods, we would have to backdate the genesis of cephalopods into the early Cambrian era, as noted Hildenbrand when she and Austermann published their results.

That would imply that cephalopods appeared at the very beginning of multicellular creature development during the Cambrian explosion.

The Cambrian Period lasted around 56 million years, ending 485 million years ago with the commencement of the Ordovician Period.

Djan-Chékar said that slicing the fossils into small bits was required to identify them.

They had to examine the internal features to determine if it was a cephalopod. In paleontology, scientists achieve this by making a minimal incision in the rock to peek inside.

According to the discoveries published in March, further study is required to prove that the fossils are the oldest known cephalopods in existence.

For months, CBC/Radio-Canada sought unsuccessfully to communicate with the two researchers behind the finding.

Sometimes the outward structure is sufficient for identification; other times, the inside structure is required.

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