THE REMAINS of an ancient sea creature that lurked at the bottom of the ocean millions of years ago have been found in Britain.
It has been named Cthulhu by boffins because its many flailing tentacles resemble the deadly arms of the infamous fictional sea beast.
However, the animal – known as Sollasina cthulhu – was far less destructive than its namesake.
It was a tiny type of sea cucumber, the group that includes the placid modern sea pig and its relatives.
Scientists say the discovery could shed new light on the early evolution of the sea cucumber, which have lived in our oceans for hundreds of millions of years.
They dug up the fossilised remains in Herefordshire and were baffled as to what they’d found.
Dating back 430million years, it lived during a time when what is now Britain was covered in water.
The fossilised creature had 45 tentacles, branching out from a central body covered in armour plates.
Its many arms helped it crawl around the seafloor, where it spent the vast majority of its time.
It also used them to move food into its mouth, with its diet likely consisting of algae and other tiny microorganisms – just like modern sea cucumbers.
At just 3cm wide, Sollasina was hardly an intimidating beast, but it’s helping scientists work out the evolutionary tree of Earth’s ancient oceans.
“We carried out a number of analyses to work out whether Sollasina was more closely related to sea cucumbers or sea urchins,” said University College London scientist Dr Jeffrey Thompson.
“To our surprise, the results suggest it was an ancient sea cucumber. This helps us understand the changes that occurred during the early evolution of the group, which ultimately gave rise to the slug-like forms we see today.”
The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
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