Ancient swimming jellyfish, dating back 505 million years, have been discovered in Canada’s renowned Burgess Shale fossil site. These fossils belong to a newly identified jellyfish species named Burgessomedusa phasmiformis, offering a window into the past evolution of these creatures. Despite being mostly water, these soft animals have been well preserved, with fossils measuring around 8 inches (20 centimeters) in length. The findings, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, provide an intriguing glimpse into the ancient world.

Jellyfish, categorized as medusozoans, have umbrella-shaped bodies and stinging tentacles. They are part of the Cnidaria group, which includes ancient species like corals and sea anemones. The discovery of Burgessomedusa phasmiformis fossils at the Burgess Shale site suggests the presence of large, bell-shaped jellyfish that swam freely over half a billion years ago. The Burgess Shale is a remarkable source of well-preserved specimens, shedding light on the ancient marine ecosystem and species interactions. These fossils help unravel the history of free-swimming jellyfish. Burgessomedusa phasmiformis likely played a significant role in the ancient marine food chain with its distinctive features, such as 90 finger-like tentacles for capturing prey. This discovery enriches our understanding of Earth’s evolutionary journey and adds to the diverse collection of species found in the Burgess Shale.