Around 480 million years ago, this fossil was a species of graptolite called Araneograptus murrayi.
This species lived during the Tremadocian stage of the lower Ordovician period and was preserved in the now famous Fezouata shale deposits of Morocco.
Graptolites were colonial, planktonic organisms with dendritic morphology, meaning they had numerous appendages which fanned out, likely to help gather more food from their environment as they floated through the ocean. This specimen, though incomplete, shows a portion of the fan-like appearance these animals had.
The rock this fossil is preserved in is from a shale that consists of 1,100 meters (3,600 ft) of layer upon layer of deposits. These layers contain thousands of specimens from 50 distinct taxa, providing a highly detailed fossil record of a specific window in time from 470 to 485 million years ago.
A 2016 study suggests this fossil formation was aided by storms that deposited sediment where these animals were living, creating a Pompeii-like snapshot of life on the ancient sea floor.