Though a basic scan of his personal history did not supply me with proof that horror author H.P. Lovecraft lived beneath the sea during the Cambrian Era, there is most certainly something suspicious afoot. Or atentacle, even.
While excavating fossils from a region of southwest China called Xiaoshiba, a research team led by Cambridge University’s Javier Ortega-Hernández discovered a 520-million-year-old perfect fossil of the arthropod called the fuxhianhuid, as well as eight other specimens. While the fuxhianhuid is already well-known among scholars, this was the first time the creature had been fossilized without its shell blocking all of its internal organs, and everything we know about it has now changed. And while it might not actually be Cthulhu, they do go to the same barber.
One of the oldest animal fossils on record, it revealed that the creature had a group of primitive limbs — spooky-ass tentacles, if you will — on the underside of its head. The researchers theorize it used the limbs to shove food into its mouth as it crept across the ocean floor, and perhaps even used them to thrust itself forward while swimming. The consensus is also that the fuxhianhuid, which is now also the earliest known animal with a nervous system found outside of its head, probably evolved from worms with legs, itself a frightening thought.
“This is as early as we can currently see into arthropod limb development,” said Ortega-Hernández, who co-authored the study published in the journal Nature. “These fossils are our best window to see the most primitive state of animals as we know them – including us. Before that, there is no clear indication in the fossil record of whether something was an animal or a plant – but we are still filling in the details, of which this is an important one.”
And when those details are long, slithery, and dangle anywhere near the face, I’d say the most important part about this is that it’s dead already, so that we may learn from it instead of calling it master.