Possibly oldest ever remains of a cephalopod were unearthed in Newfoundland, Canada, and they are more than half a billion years old.
Cephalopods are very intelligent ocean creatures that include octopuses, cuttlefish, squid, and shelled chambered nautiluses. When they first appeared many millions of years ago, they had an outer shell but eventually many of them evolved enough that they didn’t need it anymore.
Researchers found a cephalopod fossil on Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula and further analysis revealed that it dates back approximately 522 million years ago during the early part of the Cambrian Period.
This discovery may be the oldest ever cephalopod that’s ever been found. In fact, the previously oldest fossil was a shelled creature called Plectronoceras cambria that was around 30 million years after this newest discovery in Newfoundland which has yet to be given a name.
In a statement, Anne Hildenbrand, who is a geoscientist at the Institute of Earth Sciences at Heidelberg University in Germany and the lead researcher of the study, described cephalopods in further detail, stating that the discovery indicates “that cephalopods emerged at the very beginning of the evolution of multicellular organisms during the Cambrian explosion.” It was previously suggested that cephalopods emerged during the early part of the Cambrian Period and this new discovery seems to prove that theory.
As for what they looked like, the fossil revealed that it had a cone-shaped shell that contained different chambers connected by a siphuncle (an internal tube) that sent gases and fluids into the chambers in order to help the creature with its buoyancy. This actually made them the first known organisms that moved up and down in the water.
The pill-shaped cephalopod fossil measured just half an inch in height and 0.1 inch in width. This makes sense as “all of the cephalopod-ish things from back in the Cambrian were pretty small,” explained Michael Vecchione, who is an invertebrate zoologist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. but was not involved with the study. He went on to tell Live Science that he does believe that what the researchers found was in fact a cephalopod, and that the discovery “means that [cephalopods] separated from the other mollusks really early,” adding that they are very different from other mollusks. “Today, mollusks include soft-bodied invertebrate animals such as sea snails, clams and abalones.”
The researchers are hoping to find more fossils in the area in order to confirm with absolute certainty that it was an early cephalopod. A picture of the fossil can be seen here.