As Zappa fans, our previous exposure to the Palaeozoic Era of Earth's history comes mostly from from Bruce Fowler's brief monologue on the 'religious fanatic sharks' of the Upper Devonian period on 1988's Make A Jazz Noise Here.
However, unknown to Bruce at the time, some 100 million years earlier, in the Early Cambrian period, the shallow waters of central Nevada were populated by the unique Spygoria zappania.
As explained by the creature's discoverers, Marc Salac and Halard L. Lescinsky in Spygoria zappania New Genus and Species, a Cloudina-like Bioherman Metazoan from the Lower Cambrian of Central Nevada, (Journal of Paleontology 73: pp. 571-576, July, 1999), the Early Cambrian saw 'the sudden appearance of numerous new animal taxa [groups] and many new life modes. Ephemeral 'experimental' body plans appear very rapidly . . .' and Spygoria zappania was more experimental than most, it seems.
'Spygoria fossils,' Salac and Lescinsky tell us, 'consist of stacks of small (5-10mm in diameter) irregular calcified cups that are preserved in vertical, concave up life orientation.' Bit like a handful of tiny Pringles, by the sound of it. This drawing makes it clearer:
'An individual Spygoria skeleton,' according to Salac and Lescinsky, 'would have been composed of several stacked cups with the animal most likely living in the . . . uppermost cup and secreting new cups as it grew upwards.'
Not an experiment that resulted in many modern day descendants, it would seem. 'Spygoria n. grn.,' the paper states, is quite different from other known fossil organisms and thus should best be viewed as incertae sedis. I looked it up: incertae sedis is a Latin expression that means 'of uncertain placement' - in other words, we have no idea if Spygoria zappania is related to anything else that ever lived.
As for the name: 'The specific name,' say Salac and Lescinsky, 'honors the late Frank Zappa, musician, composer, politician, whose mission paralleled that of the earliest paleontologists: to challenge conventional and traditional beliefs when such beliefs lacked roots in logic and reason.' Can't argue with that!
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