You’re a great big strong animal with muscles all over your body. Your ancestors weren’t always that way, however. They used to move using flagella, or sometimes, they just oozed.
A new study published today by a group of scientists from Oxford and Cambridge in the UK and St. John’s in Newfoundland describes the earliest known animal to have any muscles at all. It lived 560 million years ago.
The image you see to the right is a reconstruction of what its body looked like when it was alive. It’s pretty strange-looking, right? Who has ever seen a creature like this living today?
Actually, many people have. Take a look at the image to the left, a photograph taken of a living animal called a stauromedusae.
Stauromedusae are small cnidarians, members of the same phylum as corals, anemone and jellyfish. Unlike jellyfish, they live most of their lives attached by a stalk to particular surfaces. Unlike coral, they don’t create hard skeletons. They have the same basic body type as these other animals, however: A central chamber surrounded by feeding tentacles. They often live in tidal zones, feeding on tiny bits of organic stuff that is tossed around on the waves.
We don’t have to travel to alien planets in far flung solar systems to find bizarre forms of life. Strange is all around us.