A “wrinkly” creature with no anus that was thought to be part of humanity’s family tree is in fact not, scientists announced Wednesday.
Saccorhytus coronarius is a 500 million-year-old microscopic, spiny marine creature which resembles the popular characters from the “Minions” movies.
According to a new study from the University of Bristol, researchers discovered the fossil should be put into an entirely different group of animals.
An international team of researchers described the Saccorhytus as a “spikey, wrinkly sack, with a large mouth surrounded by spines and holes” interpreted as pores for gills – a primitive feature of the deuterostome group, which human ancestors also emerged from.
But an analysis of the fossil in China revealed the holes are actually the bases of spines which broke off during fossilization.
“Some of the fossils are so perfectly preserved that they look almost alive,” Yunhuan Liu, a professor of paleobiology at Chang’an University, wrote in a news release. “Saccorhytus was a curious beast, with a mouth but no anus, and rings of complex spines around its mouth.”
The findings, the release continues, make important amendments to the early phylogenetic tree and the understanding of how life developed.
Your dog is really a wolf:New Ice Age DNA shows your dog comes from separate ancient wolf populations, study says
North Carolina plane crash:Pilot who died after exiting plane midflight appeared ‘visibly upset’ over emergency, NTSB says
“It’s a bit confusing,” Emily Carlisle, a researcher who studied Saccorhytus in detail, told the BBC. “(Most) ecdysozoans have an anus, so why didn’t this one?”
One option, she told the outlet, is an even earlier ancestor of this whole group did not have an anus, and that Saccorhytus evolved after that.
Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.