Monday, August 14, 2006

Animal of the Week August 14, 2006 -- Kimberella

As I got distracted from my aim to balance out the phyla last week by the woolly-hairy madness of the geep, this week's animal is as contrary to my mammalian favouritism as I can get. Introducing.... Kimberella!

Although it sounds like the lead character in an animated modernisation of the Cinderella fairytale, it's actually one of the earliest animals known in all the whole wide world, ever ever ever. Kimberella is a Vendobiont, one of the lifeforms that lived before the groups of modern animals lived (not be confused with a Vengaboy, one of the lifeforms that proves evolution is a random process not overseen by any guiding force—or at least not an omnicognisant one). The vendobionts lived during the Ediacaran age (635–542 million years ago). Kimberella is in no way the oldest known vendobiont, but for many of the others, whether they are plants or animals, algae, fungi, or something else entirely is a matter of debate.

Before 635 million years ago, the world was just a great big snowball. In springtime 634 million years ago, the ice began to thaw and over the next 80 million years diverse forms of soft-bodied life appeared. Whether any of the forms that evolved in this period have descendants alive today is unclear. Some of the fossils bear similarities to jellyfish and starfish, but their associations remain doubtful. Kimberella is itself supposed by some to be mollusc, a limpet without a shell perhaps. It certainly seemed to have bilateral symmetry, and mollusc like trails thought to have been left by Kimberella have been found in some rocks from this period.

At the end of the Ediacaran period, the vendobionts vanished...At the end of 2002, the Vengaboys seemed to have vanished too. However, I have just learned (my research for AOTW covers all bases) that there was a reunion gig at the Astoria in London on July 15 this year! Coincidence that they should reform on my birthday? I bloody-well hope so.

So there you have it, perhaps the most ancient animal that will ever be animal of the week!


PS, if anyone knows any cheapish accomodation with good access (bus, bike, walk, tube) to South Kensington in London that will be available from mid-September, give me a shout. I am easy going and quite presentable, independent, considerate, a generous and able cook, and versed in the changing of lightbulbs (bayonet and screw fitting).

PPS, apologies for overuse of pop culture references. Next week, I promise, no mention of camp pop, television I have watched, or eighties US teen comedy series.


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