Blind water creatures a distant cousin of humans, Aussie researchers say
QMI Agency
First posted: Wednesday, October 15, 2014 12:28 PM EDT | Updated: Wednesday, October 15, 2014 12:43 PM EDT
A 500-million-year-old blind water creature discovered more than 100 years ago is a distant cousin of humans, Australian researchers say.
The filter feeders have a strange figure-eight shape which has made them hard to classify accurately, researchers at the University of Adelaide said.
But the researchers have determined the creatures, known as vetulicolians, are close relatives of vertebrates. They had long tails with a stiff rod, which resembles a notochord, a precursor of the backbone.
The fossils have been discovered around the world, including in Canada, Greenland, China and Australia, the researchers said.
Vetulicolians "were simple yet successful creatures, large in number and in distribution across the globe," researcher Diego Garcia-Bellido said in a press release. "Although not directly related to humans in the evolutionary line, we can confirm that these ancient water creatures are among our distant cousins."
The research was published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.
An artists's impression of the 500-million-year-old marine creatures known as vetulicolians, now believed to be distant cousins of vertebrate animals such as humans and fish. Scientists say these blind 'filter feeders' were once abundant throughout the world. (Photo: Katrina Kenny/Handout/QMI Agency)

Blind water creatures a distant cousin of humans, Aussie researchers say | World