German fossil hailed as missing link

9th May 2008, Comments 0 comments

A fossil discovered in western Germany has been declared a missing part of the evolutionary chain by local scientists

Wuppertal -- A fossil found at a German building site last Friday has been hailed by scientists as the missing link in the evolutionary chain.

The carpoid, which lived 360 million years ago, is an ancestor of today's sea urchins and starfish. It closes a 70-million-year gap in the evolutionary record of a group of creatures known as the echinoderms which live on the sea bottom and have protective spikes.

Some evolutionary theorists have suggested that vertebrate creatures including mankind are cousins of the echinoderms.

Till its discovery in the western city of Wuppertal, no carpoid had been known between 390 million and 320 million years ago, according to local geologist Hans Martin Weber. He believes the rock was once silt at the bottom of a tropical sea in which the dead creature became embedded.

An amateur palaeontologist found several fragments up to 1.2 centimetres in size of the creature's shell and front end in some rock exposed after a kindergarten had been ripped down. The fragments were then handed to the authorities to identify.

Other fossils found in the rock were the first of their types to be found in Germany. The site had been well known to fossil hunters for 100 years and experts  voiced their surprise that no one had seen the echinoderm before. DPA

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