This is a free coupon/excuse for you to infodump on the current topic you’re obsessed with. Take some time away from internet discourse and share with us something you find interesting.
Today I read about Precambrian animals!
The above one is Thectardis, which is an animal so weird we have almost no inclination of how to categorize it. We know it was alive and it was cone shaped. That’s it.
The thing about fossil life from 500+ million years ago is that there often aren’t really any living analogs for it? Many of the animals from that time were sessile, many filter feeders, without much in common with what comes to mind when we think “Animal”—something that moves around and has a brain and thinks. The strata that preserve these animals are very rarely accessible, and these glimpses we have are hard to interpret.
Many of these creatures are known from a single fossil. Many are too weird to interpret or classify even tentatively.
Here’s another organism from that time, Eoandromeda:
Look at this thing. I can’t explain why, but Eoandromeda makes me feel some kind of deep dread. Like...we don’t know what this thing was. We don’t even know if it was an animal. I look at that shape and I want someone to tell me what that thing is. But we don’t know. We don’t have the words for What That Thing Is.
Imagine something so alien, so divergent from the paths life took to the present day, that we can’t look at it and say “That’s a worm” or “That’s a sponge” or “that’s a jellyfish” or...anything. The words for it literally don’t exist, because nothing like it now exists, and we know nothing about it. We’re not looking at different versions of the same categories of creature we have now. We’re looking at something that is too obscure to have a category. We can guess what it might have looked like. But it is so utterly unlike anything that exists now that we know nothing—except that undeniably, it existed.
Namacalathus. Be honest, doesn’t this make you scream inside? Or is it just me? This was a real animal that existed. It doesn’t know or give a fuck what a “snail” or “bird” is.
Learning about dinosaurs is DIFFERENT. We know what bones are. We have them! When we say that sauropod dinosaurs ate plants, we can imagine those plants. We can describe dinosaurs as having a “neck” and “claws” and “legs.” And I think that’s comforting because whatever I feel when I look at Namacalathus is not that.
This one invented muscles! Muscles are okay! I have muscles! That should make me feel better, right!
...Not really! Put it back!
For millions of years these things existed, living their unknowable lives. There was an entire world of these organisms. This was EARTH, our world.
People mostly haven’t heard of these. I think people care less about these strange early creatures because they seem less charismatic, not having brains or doing anything, but I think there is a lot of charisma to the Unknowable Cone Animal, the Dread Spiral, and all the other unsettling animals of the Precambrian.
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