Rollinschaeta myoplena has a lot of punk cred for a long-dead worm. The fossilized fireworm, described for the first time by researchers from London’s Natural History Museum and the University of Bristol, was named after the frontman of the band Black Flag, Henry Rollins.
The marine worm fossil found in Lebanon, dating back to the Late Cretaceous period (100 to 66 million years ago), featured a striking amount of muscle tissue for a fossil. Bones stick around for millions of years, but soft tissues like blood cells, sperm, or muscles are rarely so well preserved. "Fossil muscle tissue is rare and usually not described in any detail by paleontologists,” as Luke Parry, a University of Bristol Ph.D. candidate and co-author of the paper in BMC Evolutionary Biology, explains in a press release.
But this is no ordinary worm. Because of its habitat in the strong currents around coral reefs, the fireworm was “a very buff little worm,” as Parry’s co-author, Jakob Vinther, says. Hence its name, a tribute to the buff Henry Rollins, a longtime proponent of strength training.
The Rollinschaeta myoplena fossil was so muscular that the researchers were able to identify it as a fireworm solely from the 3D tissue found in the fossil, which preserved the musculature of the body wall, gut, and parapodia as calcium phosphate. They then compared these features to CT scans of the muscle arrangements of modern worms.
All images courtesy Luke Parry/University of Bristol