Editor’s Note: Sign up for CNN’s Wonder Theory science newsletter. Explore the universe with news about amazing discoveries, scientific advances and more.
An ancient shrimp-like creature with appendages growing from its head and a hooked mouth, it was thought to be the most important predator of its time.
This sea creature got its scary name because paleontologists think it’s responsible for the scarred and crushed skeletons of fossilized trilobites—early hard-shelled invertebrates that glided along the sea floor before dying out in the mass extinction that gave rise to the dinosaurs.
The 2-foot-long (0.6 m long) Anomalocaris canadensis was one of the largest marine animals that lived 508 million years ago. An underwater predator roamed the seas during the Cambrian period – a critical period The history of the planet An explosion in the diversity of life occurred and many of the major groups of animals alive today emerged.
“This didn’t sit well with me, because trilobites have a very hard exoskeleton, which is basically made of rock, but this animal is usually soft and soft,” said Russell Bicknell, a postdoctoral researcher in the US who carried out his work while at the University of New England in Australia’s Department of Paleontology at the Natural History Museum.
Bicknell and his colleagues in Germany, China, Switzerland and the United Kingdom used computer modeling to create a new three-dimensional construct to better understand biomechanics. The model is based on a well-preserved but flat fossil. Burgess Shale Formation In the Canadian Rockies.
Hunting with long appendages
Previous studies had shown that Anomalocaris’ mouthparts were unable to process solid food, so Bicknell and his colleagues focused on whether the long, spiny appendages could have chewed the trilobite.
Using modern whip scorpions and whip spiders as analogs, they sport the same appendages that enable them to capture prey, thus showing that the segmented segment of the predator is capable of both stretching and flexing to capture prey.
However, the team’s analysis suggests that the marine animal is “unable” to crush the two structures, which are weaker and stronger than originally thought, in the study, published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The creature, which Bicknell described as a cross between a shrimp and a cuttlefish, probably evolved after being trapped in well-lit open water rather than chasing the agile, fast, hard-shelled creatures on the ocean floor.
“Previous theories were that these animals saw the Burgess Shale fauna as a smorgasbord, going after whatever they wanted, but we’re discovering that the dynamics of the Cambrian food web may have been much more complex than we once thought,” Bicknell said in a statement.
Create an account for more CNN news and newsletters CNN.com