Just keep swimming
It had two more tentacles than today’s octopi.
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Octopi may be strange, but their past is even stranger.
We don’t know when octopi or their squid cousins first swam in the Earth’s oceans.
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But we do know that coleoids — a class of soft-bodied cephalopods that encompass squid and octopi — have been around for a long time.
Isolated fossils of ancient coleoids date back hundreds of millions of years.
Since they’re soft on the outside, coleoid tissue will often degrade before it can be preserved.
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But on March 8, researchers described a new species of ancient coleoid whose soft tissue was remarkably well-preserved in rock.
This fossil was unearthed in Montana and donated to the Royal Ontario Museum in 1988.
It’s estimated to be 330 million years old.
Researchers named the ancient cephalopod in honor of President Biden, who had been recently inaugurated when the study was submitted for publication.
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It’s classified as a vampyropod, a group of cephalopods that predated octopi and deep-sea-dwelling vampire squids.
Unlike its current-day relatives, Syllipsimopodi had 10 tentacles instead of eight.
But it does bear a similar squid-like shape and suction pads along with its appendages.
Syllipsimopodi’s age makes it the oldest vampyropod on record.
Previously, the oldest vampyropod fossil was 82 million years old — Syllipsimopodi is nearly 330 million.
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The finding sheds light on the cryptic evolution of octopi and squid, revealing that a crucial ancestor was much older than we once thought.