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Cambrian Comb Jellies Had More Complex Neuroanatomy than Living Species

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Post by Dragon Thu Aug 26, 2021 12:47 pm

Paleontologists have described two new species from the Cambrian period of Utah, which illuminate the early evolution of nervous and sensory features in ctenophores (comb jellies).

Ctenophores are a group of over 200 living species with a transparent gelatinous body superficially resembling that of a jellyfish.

While some studies suggest they might represent the earliest branching animals, others suggest a more traditional position as close relatives of jellyfish.

The two new species, named Ctenorhabdotus campanelliformis and Thalassostaphylos elegans, are a spectacular addition to the scant fossil record of the group.

The specimens were found in the Marjum Formation in the House Range of Utah, and represent the first ctenophore fossils ever discovered in the United States.


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Post by Dragon Thu Aug 26, 2021 12:50 pm

Cambrian Comb Jellies Had More Complex Neuroanatomy than Living Species Image_9988-Ctenorhabdotus-Thalassostaphylos
Image credit: Holly Sullivan

An artist’s reconstruction of Ctenorhabdotus campanelliformis (top) and Thalassostaphylos elegans (bottom).


Ctenorhabdotus campanelliformis had a small bell-shaped body with up to 24 comb rows and a wavy mouth opening.

Intriguingly, this species had two important features: (i) a rigid capsule that protected the sensory apical organ, and (ii) a well-preserved nervous system; the nerves are long, and connect with a ring around the mouth.

“This was quite an unexpected finding, as only one species (Euplokamis) of comb jellies today has comparable long nerves,” said Professor Javier Ortega-Hernández, a paleontologist in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University.

“Most modern comb jellies have a diffuse nervous net, and not well-defined long nerves.”


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Post by Dragon Thu Aug 26, 2021 12:57 pm

Ctenophora (/tɪˈnɒfərə/; singular ctenophore, /ˈtɛnəfɔːr/ or /ˈtiːnəfɔːr/; from Ancient Greek: κτείς, romanized: kteis, lit. 'comb and φέρω, pherō, 'to carry'; commonly known as comb jellies) comprise a phylum of invertebrate animals that live in marine waters worldwide.

They are notable for the groups of cilia they use for swimming (commonly referred to as "combs"), and they are the largest animals to swim with the help of cilia.


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Post by Dragon Thu Aug 26, 2021 12:59 pm

Cambrian Comb Jellies Had More Complex Neuroanatomy than Living Species 349px-LightRefractsOf_comb-rows_of_ctenophore_Mertensia_ovum
Credit: Kevin Raskoff

Light refracts off the comb-rows of the ctenophore Mertensia ovum producing stripes of rainbow color. One of the two tentacles with which it feeds is deployed while the other is retracted.


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Post by Dragon Thu Aug 26, 2021 1:09 pm

Cambrian Comb Jellies Had More Complex Neuroanatomy than Living Species Ctenophore2
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Beroe sp. swimming with open mouth, at left. This animal is 3–6 cm long.


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Post by Dragon Thu Aug 26, 2021 1:11 pm



The Comb Jelly (Ctenophora)

Quick facts about these voracious carnivores.


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