Drakozoon was a blob-like creature that lived in the oceans during the Silurian Period, some 425 million years ago. It was known from only a single fossil - until researchers sliced and diced their specimen to create this 3D model.
Drakozoon was a tiny, simple organism, only about 3 millimeters long. Shaped like a cone, it probably had a "hood" that it could pull over the rest of its body as protection against predators. It had a leathery skin and tiny tentacles that it used to catch little organic particles in the ocean water. That's an awful lot to know about an organism for which only a single, recently discovered fossil exists, and it's all thanks to the 3D imaging work done by researchers at Imperial College London.
As Professor Mark Sutton explains:
"Excitingly, our 3D model brings back to life a creature that until recently no one knew even existed, and provides us with a window into the life of Drakozoon. We think this tiny blob of jelly survived by clinging onto rocks and hard shelled creatures, making a living by plucking microscopic morsels out of seawater. By looking at this primitive creature, we also get one tantalising step closer to understanding what the earliest creatures on Earth looked like."
In order to create the 3D model, they had to sacrifice the original fossil. They cut it into 200 individual pieces, then scanned every side of these pieces to create the model. Beyond figuring out what Drakozoon looked like and how it behaved, the model also revealed eight ridges on either side of its body, a genetic remnant of a time when it had a segmented body structure. This supports the current theory that segmented creatures are a common ancestor for all life on Earth.