Cryptic creatures made for a spectacular hanging garden

by Timothy Oleson
Monday, June 23, 2014

The upside-down cryptic assemblage — so known because the creatures inhabited a hollowed-out cavity in the rock — is “exceptionally well preserved,” which allowed Michal Jakubowicz of Adam Mickiewicz University in Poland and colleagues to identify what types of animals had lived in the roughly 390-million-year-old colony, and even particular species in some cases. They also determined a succession of colonization, reporting in Geology that cnidaria appeared to have been first on the scene but were eventually overtaken and overgrown by corals and crinoids.

In contrast to some examples of preserved cryptic settings where unique organisms have been found, this colony was made up of animals that also inhabited open waters, the researchers noted. Exactly why the creatures inhabited the cavity is unclear, but it’s possible they were attracted by “factors such as decreased competition and predation pressure,” Jakubowicz’s team wrote.

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