Answer Monday

A fossil!

It’s a conulariid—according to Dan Phelps, genus Paraconularia, but at any rate a conulariid! What the heck is a conulariid? According to Heyo Van Iten and Zdenka Vyhlasová, “Conulariids are an extinct group of benthic marine cnidarians the extant nearest relatives of which are the stauromedusans or the coronatid scyphozoans.” That is, they’re somewhat like jellyfish—if jellyfish were, like ice cream, served inside hard cones. (Restaurateurs seeking novelty, take note.) It is the cone that you see here, of course. A neat fact about conulariids is that they produced pearls within their shells, just like oysters. Since they lived from the Ordovician to the Triassic, whereas pigs make their appearance in the early Pleistocene, they thus exemplify, as promised, the phrase “pearls before swine.” Congratulations to Dan Coleman for identifying the clade first, and a tip of the pearl-studded hat to Dan Phelps for the photograph.