New 315-year-old fossil species discovered

The world's largest known specimen is Cythophycus palori, a 315-million-year-old sponge that can reach a height of 50 cm.

It has been found in rocks that include the Cliffs of Moher and is thought to date from when the region was near the equator.

A sponge like the Venus Flower Basket Sponge found in the Pacific Ocean had a circular opening at the top surrounded by a ring of eyeball-like structures when alive.

The mythical giant Balor, which supposedly killed anyone who saw it while its eye was open, inspired the naming of new species.

Dr Eamonn Doyle, a geologist working with the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark, discovered the sponge.

„This is an extraordinarily large specimen of a type of fossil sponge previously known only from significantly older rocks found in other parts of the world,” he said.

„This is the first record of this type of fossil sponge from Ireland and its excellent preservation is very unusual.”

Despite their simple body design and lack of nervous or circulatory systems, sponges are widespread and play a significant role in biodiversity.

For the small organisms they feed on, they filter large amounts of water.

Dr. According to Doyle, the sponge was originally made of a rectangular meshwork of microscopic silica spicules held together by a thin organic membrane.

„When they die, they usually break down quickly, and often only scattered remains are preserved as fossils, so I was delighted to see these specimens mostly intact.”

„The best-preserved fossil comes from a time when the Atlantic Ocean had not yet begun to form, and what we now call Co Clare was part of an earlier ocean near the equator,” he continued.

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„Finds like this help to raise awareness of the amazing geological heritage on our doorstep in Co Clare and encourage a new generation of paleontologists to visit and learn more about the unique geology of Ireland's west coast.

Dr Lucy Muir, Honorary Research Fellow at National Museums Wales (Amgudfa Cymru) and lead author Dr Joseph Botting, a world-renowned expert on fossil sponges, published the latest edition of the new findings. Geobios, an international journal of geography.

Dr Potting was „amazed” by the size and condition of the fossil.

„This discovery provides important information about the evolution of sponges and the ways in which some species can survive in niche habitats unsuitable for other species. Finding specimens of this size and completeness is remarkable,” he said.

Dr. Muir concluded: „This is an amazing discovery and a reminder that there are still new and interesting fossils to help us understand the story of life on Earth.”

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