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This fossil is from the latest Precambrian (Vendian) of the Winter Coast of the White Sea, in north Russia, just north of the city of Arkhangel'sk. No one is entirely certain what it is. It was clearly soft-bodied in life -- specimens are often found crinkled, folded, or even folded part way over. It seems to have had a definite "head" end, but its body segments alternate up the midline (like the fingers of two folded hands), and the "head" is asymmetrical. Some specimens show light zigzag lines that are probably muscles, and the specimens are often preserved in what look like contracted or distorted positions, which further suggests that they had some sort of muscles in life. The "head" contains unusual branching structures that may have been some sort of digestive organ. At any rate, many arthropods have similar finely branched extensions of the gut, branching off in the head region and forming the digestive glands. But this fossil isn't an arthropod. There's no sign of legs, and the asymmetrical segmentation isn't like anything seen in typical arthropods.

In 1994, I found the first specimen of this oddball, preserved as an impression on a loose block of fine sandstone that had slid down from some crumbling bluffs on the White Sea coast, near the mouth of Yorga Creek. I remember coming back to camp and saying to my Russian colleague, Andrei Ivantsov, "Nashól trilobít!" (I found a trilobite!). . . and he got a little annoyed because he thought I was teasing him. . . until he came to the site the next day, agreed that I had in fact found something weird and noteworthy, and carefully chiseled the fossil off the sandstone block.

The next year, Andrei found several more of these things at a new locality on the White Sea coast. He described the thing in a paper pubished in 1999. It's not a trilobite. . . But even so, Andrei did me the great honor of naming it after me. Yes, this is the world-famous fossil Yorgia waggoneri. The fact that no one has any idea what kind of organism Yorgia waggoneri is, I find to be somehow deeply appropriate and satisfying.

See: Ivantsov, A. Yu. 1999. A new dickinsoniid from the Upper Vendian of the White Sea Winter Coast (Russia, Arkhangelsk Region). Paleontological Journal 33(3): 211-221. The specimen figured above is in the Paleontological Institute (PIN) of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, specimen number 3993/5007.

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