Archaeologists discovered a marine archaeological site from the mid-Ordovician Period 462 million years ago Castle Bank, Wales, according to a new study published on Monday.
The site boasts 150 different fossilized species, many of which had never been discovered before this find.
A peer-reviewed study, published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, details some of the unexpected fossil finds.
The discovered fossils
The site is thought to be unique as the soft tissue and many complete organisms were preserved in good condition. In some of the specimens, nerves and digestive systems are still fully intact, which is extremely rare. This allowed researchers to gain an unprecedented look at the evolution of marine life.
Many of the fossils discovered come from the Cambrian period, which was 485-542 million years ago, the oldest period from which animal fossils can be identified.
The fossils all appeared in post-Cambrian rocks, meaning that Palaeontologists are limited in their understanding of how marine life evolved from the Cambrian period to the post-Cambrian period. Cambrian rocks hold the first diversified fossilized species and are credited with the first appearances of most animal phyla that have fossil records.
The newly discovered species include opabiniids, proto-arthropods with long noses, wiwaxiids, which are thought to be an early relative of mollusks that are armored with scales, a creature thought to be an early ancestor of goose barnacles and cephalocarid shrimps. Of the species discovered, most are considered very small, measuring 1-3mm.
One of the more significant finds, a newly discovered Shale-type of fauna, will bridge a gap in scientific understanding about the shift from Cambrian fauna to Palaeozoic fauna and the shift in ecosystems to the diversified ecology seen today.
The Ordovician Period
The Ordovician Period lasted approximately 45,000,000 years. During this period, the area north of the tropics was almost entirely ocean, and most of the world's land was collected into the southern supercontinent Gondwana, according to the University of Berkeley. Sea levels were up to 1,970 feet (600 meters) higher than current levels.
Archaeologists have discovered diverse marine invertebrates, including graptolites, trilobites, brachiopods, and conodonts from the period.