Monday, 5 September 2016

Haootia quadriformis sculpture

Haootia quadriformis is a small polyp-type animal which lived around 560 million years ago, and is believed to be one of the first creatures to have muscle tissue.  I’ve wanted to do something with haootia ever since the discovery was published in 2014, but couldn’t work out exactly what I was going to do.

Finally I got the idea to make a small sculpture that emphasises the little animal’s symmetrical body plan.





This is haootia seen from above.  From the fossil evidence it appears to have been cup-shaped, with small tentacles branching off at each of its four corners, so that's what you see in the sculpture.  The sculpture is about life size, maybe slightly bigger.

The following pictures show the haootia fossil discovered in Newfoundland, along with an artist's reconstruction of what it probably looked like when it wasn't squashed flat, and a modern staurozoan (stalked jellyfish), which is possibly a distant relative of haootia and is a similar type of animal.



The two top images show the original haootia fossil from Newfoundland.  Bottom right is an artist's depiction of what it looked like in life, and bottom left is a staurozoan, a similar type of animal which is still around today.  Picture from The Economist.


I used these pictures to determine how my haootia sculpture should look.  I should point out we don't know exactly what haootia looked like inside.  The Newfoundland fossil doesn't show evidence of any clearly defined structures inside the animal, so I went with a very simple shape.  Modern polyps have a mouth and the body of the polyp forms a stomach cavity.  I assume haootia absorbed nutrients through the walls of its body cavity, but the fossil shows no sign of a mouth.