Cactus squid swims again after 128 million years

Scientists from the Austrian Natural History Museum have managed to recreate the appearance of a previously unknown Ammonite believed to be the ultimate great-grandfather of the modern-day squid and octopus.

The team used complicated 3-D scanning technology to unearth the fossil of “Dissimilites intermedius” a layer at a time after it was discovered in sediment laid at the bottom of the ocean during the Cretaceous period an incredible 128 million years ago.

The scientists said that the computer tomography had allowed them to see far more than they would ever have been able to with the naked eye as the creature was exposed a layer at a time – with the data including the fact that the body was covered with spines each between three and 4mm long.

A spokesman for the museum said: “The fossil is of a previously unknown creature which is a type of Ammonite.

“Computer tomography and a complicated 3-D reconstruction programme were used to help reconstruct not only the appearance of the fossil found in the Dolomites a year earlier but also to work out how it moved by the position of the impressions left by its limbs.”

The video of the swimming creature seen now for the first time in 128 million years is on display at the Natural History Museum together with photos of the 13cm-long creature.

The spokesman added that the prehistoric Tethys Ocean that existed between the continents of Gondwana and Laurasia during much of the Mesozoic era had laid down millions of years of sediment at the bottom of the sea. As the centuries past and the Alps folded out of the sea some of the former sea bottom sediment ended up on the peaks of the Dolomites.

And it was here in the Puez-Geisler-Natural Park at a height of around 2600m that a section of the former seabed was discovered with the thickest ever density of fossils from prehistory.

The team led by Alexander Lukeneder from the geological/palaeontology section of the museum have been working on the 150 meter section for three years and discovered the fossil of the heteromorph Ammonite last year.

He said: “The feet of this previously unknown Ammonite were different to that of those known as the Nautilus which died out around 65 million years ago.” Details of the final published in the specialist magazine “Acta Palaeontologica Polonica”.