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Fossils’ soft tissues helping scientists to unravel origins of early animals
Scientists unearthed the fossil of an animal known as namacalathus. The soft tissue of which had been remarkably preserved by pyrite.

'Exceptional fossils' aid in efforts to trace roots of Cambrian Explosion

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh are using newly-discovered, well-preserved fossils to trace the ancestry of some of the Earth's earliest animals.

The Cambrian event is notable as the period when practically all major modern-day animal groups started appearing in the fossil record. But, until recently, the origins of animals that evolved during the Cambrian event were mostly unknown because of a lack of well-preserved fossil evidence.

The new study – published in Science Advances – has uncovered the first known link between animals that evolved some 540 million years ago during the Cambrian Explosion and one of their early ancestors.

Edinburgh scientists unearthed the fossilised remains of miniscule animals known as namacalathus – which resemble a pin cushion attached to a short stalk –  while conducting fieldwork in Namibia.

Until now, only skeletal remains of namacalathus had been found. But, using x-ray imaging, the team found soft tissues inside the fossils which had been perfectly preserved by a metallic mineral called pyrite.

Through analysing and comparing these soft tissues to those in animals that evolved later, the team found that namacalathus was an early ancestor of species that appeared during the Cambrian Explosion, including types of prehistoric worms and molluscs.

Professor Rachel Wood, from the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, said: “These are exceptional fossils, which give us a glimpse into the biological affinity of some of the oldest animals.

“They help us trace the roots of the Cambrian Explosion and the origin of modern animal groups. Such preservation opens up many new avenues of research into the history of life which was previously not possible.”

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WellVet launches spring series of wellbeing talks

News Story 1
 A new spring series of wellbeing talks designed to tackle some of the issues faced in veterinary practices is launching on Saturday (27 February). Hosted by WellVet and Boehringer Ingelheim, the talks will focus on simple, practical tips to improve personal and team wellbeing.

Six 30-minute presentations will be hosted by leading coaching professionals, including Libby Kemkaran, Adrian Nelson-Pratt and occupational psychologist professor Elinor O'Connor. The events will be streamed live on the WellVet Facebook page and can be watched back at any time. For more information, visit 

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News Shorts
2021 NOAH Compendium now available

The 2021 edition of the NOAH Compendium of Data Sheets for Animal Medicines has been published.

Published annually by NOAH, this book is sent to every veterinary practice in the UK for free. The 2021 edition includes an even larger range of products than previous years.

Chief executive Dawn Howard stated that NOAH will shortly be launching a survey for practices on the Compendiums effectiveness.

She added: "Our survey will give users of the Compendium the opportunity to say how they think we can improve it to assist them in prescribing veterinary medicines and advising animal keepers on their use. We look forward to getting your views."