"Although the fossil is just three [centimeters] wide, its many long tentacles would have made it appear quite monstrous to other small sea creatures alive at the time", said the University of Oxford press release.
Researchers have discovered an exceptionally well preserved fossil in 430 million-year-old rocks representing a new species of primitive sea cucumber, which they have named Sollasina cthulhu due to its resemblance to the sea deity from H. P. Lovecraft's fictional universe.
Complete with soft parts, the fossilised remains were found in volcanic ash deposits that accumulated in what is now the county of Herefordshire near the Welsh Border.
An worldwide team of researchers, including minds from Yale, Imperial College London, Oxford, and other institutions, have identified a new species of sea creature that crawled along the sea floor hundreds of millions of years ago.
Palaeontologists from the USA and the United Kingdom worked together to grind away the fossil, photographing it from hundreds of different angles to then digitally reconstruct the animal as a 3D model.
This reconstruction process involved grinding a fossil away layer by layer and taking photos at each of these stages.
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The creature had multiple "tube feet" tentacles that it used to crawl over the seafloor and capture food, according to the research team.
They have called this new species Sollasina cthulhu. "This allowed us to build up a dataset of hundreds of "slices" through the fossil, which were then digitally reconstructed as a "virtual fossil" on a computer".
"This allowed us to reconstruct the internal anatomy of this extinct group of fossil echinoderms for the first time, revealing similarities with modern sea cucumbers", Rahman said.
A team of global palaeontologists led by the Oxford University Museum of Natural History have discovered the extremely well-preserved remains of an ancient relative of the marine invertebrates known as sea cucumbers. "To our surprise, the results suggest it was an ancient sea cucumber".
"This includes an inner ring-like form that has never been described in the group before".
In order to verify where Sollasina cthulhu belongs on the evolutionary family tree, the researchers performed a computerized analysis which confirmed the fossil was a type of ancient sea cucumber, rather than a sea urchin. Other authors are Jeffrey Thompson of University College London, David Siveter of the University of Leicester, Derek Siveter of Oxford, and Mark Sutton of Imperial College London. "Based on this 3D reconstruction, we were able to recognize the fossil as a species new to science".