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Agnostus Pisiformis, an extinct creature that used to live in what is modern-day Scandinavia, looks like anything but a creature that came from Earth.
The species, which were just a centimeter long, were found in almost perfect preservation in limestone and shale, providing an exact detail of what they looked like when they inhabited the earth. This near-perfect preservation of the creatures gives geologists the ability to see the entire anatomy, which then sheds light on the ecology of the animal as well as its lifestyle.
A. Pisiformis is believed to have lived a life similar to that of a modern-day shellfish, starting as a larva and then grow into an adult while repeatedly shedding and growing a hard exoskeleton. When curled up, the pisiformis’ shell, which looked can only be described as two “shields,” protected its body and made the creature look a bit like a clam. While not much more is known about the pisiformis besides its anatomical structure, researchers predict that tiny creature probably ate organic bits of matter it plucked out of the water.
Not only can the A. Pisiformis give insight to lifestyles during the infancy of life on Earth, it’s also considered an index fossil, a type of fossil that only appears during a certain time period, giving scientists an accurate way date rock layers. If the fossil appears in them, then the layer most likely formed during the time that the creature was alive.
The process of creating the sculptures of A. Pisiformis was painstaking, involving many steps using hand-modeling clay, molds, and silicon casts. The final products were made with clear silicon and were about the size of dinner plates, making it much easier to see the almost microscopic creature’s anatomical structure.
Both the researchers and the artists hope the creations will be displayed in a traveling exhibit about the animals of the Cambrian seas, calling the period “one of the most exciting times in the history of the Earth”, referencing the Cambrian explosion, a time of diversification that gave us a list of odd and exciting creatures to study.