A Jurassic vampire squid-like creature used supersuckers to snatch prey from the water column and lock it in place with a tight seal, 3D imagery of multiple fossils reveals.
For the first time, scientists have used advanced 3D imaging techniques to examine the suction cups of Vampyronassa rhodanica, an extinct relative of the modern vampire squid (Vampyroteuthis infernalis). The analysis revealed never-before-seen features of the animal’s internal anatomy, the scientists reported Thursday (June 23) in the journal Scientific reports (opens in a new tab).
“For the first time we can show that there was a combination of anatomical characters in V. rhodanica not seen today”, said Alison Rowe, a doctoral student at the Center for Palaeontology Research in Paris (CR2P), a laboratory supported by the Sorbonne University, the National Center for Scientific Research and the National Museum of Science. natural history of Paris. Science in an e-mail.
The three fossils featured in the study were originally excavated from La Voulte-sur-Rhône Lagerstätte, an exceptional fossil site located in the Ardèche region of southeastern France. The site is around 164 million years old, which means it dates from the mid-Jurassic period (201.3 million to 145.5 million years ago), and it contains a treasure trove of different marine organisms fossilized.
Related: A 500 million year old fossil is the ancestor of all cephalopods
“The La Voulte-sur-Rhône Lagerstätte in France is really special, because it preserves 3D specimens,” Rowe said. This is because, rather than rotting, the flesh has been replaced by iron-rich minerals over time. It’s unusual to find fossilized cephalopods with soft tissue remains, and when you do, they tend to be crushed flat, Rowe said. In this way, 3D V. rhodanica the fossils of La Voulte-sur-Rhône are a rare find.
Scientists first examined the fossils in 2002, when they determined the animals belonged to a previously unknown species, according to a report in the journal Annals of Paleontology (opens in a new tab). In this report, the researchers described a small octopus-like creature with eight arms as well as suckers and spiny appendages called cirri. At this time, it was clear that each arm carried a row of suction cups flanked by cirri on both sides. But the exact structure of these features was difficult to discern, and the internal anatomy of V. rhodanica remained mysterious.
“I guess a rough comparison would be if you’re used to looking at skeletons and suddenly you have a mummy – that gives you a ton of extra detail, but looking at the surface of it won’t tell you much immediately. on internal anatomy,” said Christopher Whalen, a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow in paleontology co-located at Yale University and the American Museum of Natural History, who was not involved in the study. In other words, the preserved soft tissue somewhat obscures the hard structures underneath.
By re-examining fossils with powerful X-raysthe study authors provided “incredibly useful” information about the animals’ innards, Whalen told Live Science.
Related: Former 10-armed vampire squid relative named after Joe Biden
In particular, the X-ray analyzes allowed the team to reconstruct the cephalopod suckers in high resolution, so they could “virtually dissect” the suckers on screen, Whalen noted. These suckers are similar in shape to those of the Vampire Squid, although they differ in that they are larger, more numerous, and more widely spaced. V. rhodanica also wears a slightly different configuration of suckers and cirri on two of his arms, which are slightly longer than his other six arms.
Based on this combination of features, and V. rhodanicathe study authors speculated that the animal likely hunted prey in the open sea and used its large suckers and specialized arms to capture and manipulate its victims.
“It seems reasonable to me to say that this animal was predatory,” Whalen said. This distinguishes the Jurassic cephalopod from the vampire squid, since modern animals do not hunt and instead feed on tiny organisms and bits of organic matter that drift to the sea depths from the shallower layers of the ocean.
Vampire squid use long, sticky structures called filaments to extract their food from the water column, but the authors found no evidence of these filaments in V. rhodanica. It could be that Jurassic animals really lacked these structures, or they may simply be absent from the specimens examined, Whalen said. A true lack of filaments could imply that V. rhodanica is actually more closely related to modern octopuses than to vampire squids, since octopuses also lack filaments — but for now, that’s an open question, he said.
Originally posted on Live Science.