ALAN SIRULNIKOFF / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ALAN SIRULNIKOFF / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Fossil sponge (Vauxia sp.) from the Burgess Shale. This branching sponge lived in the Middle Cambrian Era, over 500 million years ago. It lived in large colonies on the seabed. It comprised a network of strands with a skeleton of spongin, a flexible organic material found in modern-day sponges. It fed by extracting nutrients from the water. The point of attachment to the seabed is seen at lower left. This is one of the most abundant organisms in the Burgess Shale fossil bed, in Field, British Columbia, Canada. Many soft-bodied animals were preserved by mud in the sea. Absence of oxygen and bacteria prevented their decay and the animals were gradually turned into rock.
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