Vendian Animals: Kimberella

from the White Sea Region of Russia

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Kimberella, one of the most fascinating Vendian fossils, has received a great deal of attention lately. It was hypothesized to be a box jellyfish (cubozoan) until new information came to light. The original interpretation was based on a small number of specimens from South Australia that looked like four-parted box jellyfishes lying on their sides.

Recently, many well-preserved and large (up to three centimeters across!) specimens from the White Sea region of Russia were found by teams of researchers from the Paleontological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow (PIN) and UCMP. The new Kimberella specimens were studied Dr. Mikhail A. Fedonkin of PIN and Dr. Ben Waggoner, a former UCMP graduate student.

Fedonkin and Waggoner have shown that Kimberella was a bilaterally symmetric animal that had rigid parts. Specimens of Kimberella from the White Sea are found as relatively deep depressions on the undersides of siltstone slabs. Fedonkin and Waggoner reasoned that Kimberella probably had a tough shell-like covering that rigidly stood up into the sediment when the animals were buried. Thus, Kimberella appears to be somewhat like a mollusc. Nevertheless, it is still uncertain which group of modern animals is most closely related to this interesting animal.

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