Repost: Synophalos Formed Cambrian Conga Lines

[This essay was originally posted on February 24, 2011.]

Compared to other creatures of the Cambrian seas, Synophalos xynos seems rather plain. It was not a living pincushion like Wiwaxia, its body did not resemble a walking cactus like Diania, and it wasn’t a five-eyed, schnozzle-faced enigma like Opabinia. Next to these fantastic forms, Synophalos looks like little more than a peeled shrimp, but one thing made it remarkable. Over 525 million years ago, groups of Synophalos chained themselves together.

When first described by paleontologists Xian-Guang Hou, Derek Siveter, Richard Aldridge, and David Siveter in 2008, very little was known about this creature. It didn’t even have a name. Drawing a comparison with one

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