Vendian Animals: Eoporpita

from the White Sea Region of Russia

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Eoporpita is one of the most striking Vendian fossils, noted for its thick tentacles surrounding a central body. This specimen is nearly six centimeters across and was found at the Winter Coast of the White Sea; other specimens have come from south Australia. Until recently, Eoporpita was thought to be a chondrophorine, but some researchers now doubt this interpretation of Eoporpita and consider it to have been a benthic polyp rather like a sea anemone.

Chondrophorines are cnidarians in the class Hydrozoa; although they look somewhat like individual jellyfish, with a round body from which tentacles hang, they are actually colonies of individual polyps, each one specialized for a function like feeding or reproduction. The whole colony floats with an internal disc-shaped float that may or may not have a sail attached. Living chondrophorines are known as "sailors-by-the-wind" and may wash up on beaches in huge numbers at certain times of the year. They are probably relatives of the Siphonophora, an order of colonial cnidarians that includes the venomous "Portuguese man-o-war".

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