A monster predator with a circular jaw and a pair of claws on its head has been discovered in old collections of the Smithsonian museum in Washington.
Fragments of the monster were unearthed in 1912 somewhere in Canada’s 505 million-year-old Burgess Shale site. Researchers are first thought they were part of a crustacean-like animal.
When researchers discovered more complete specimens in the 1990’s they realized fossils that were previously classified as jellyfish, sea cucumbers and other anthropods were more likely an entirely new beast.
The new monster – Hurdia victoria – has a segmented body covered with gills and a huge three-part carapace, or shell, that projects out from the front of its head, according to the study published in the peer-reviewed journal Science.
Allison Daley has been studying the fossils for three years as part of her doctoral thesis.
“The use of the large carapace extending from the front of its head is a mystery. In many animals, a shell or carapace is used to protect the soft-parts of the body, as you would see in a crab or lobster, but this structure in Hurdia is empty and does not cover or protect the rest of the body. We can only guess at what its function might have been.”
A team of researchers from Canada, Britain and the United States reclassified the fossils after studying several hundred specimens found in the Burgess Shale.
Hurdia and Anomalocaris are believed to both be early offshoots of the evolutionary lineage that led to arthropods -spiders, crustaceans, insects, millipedes and centipedes.
The things scientists can determine from looking at rocks continues to amaze me.
I’ve tried doing that. I look at the backs of people and wonder what their fronts look like. I NEVER get it right. How can these folks determine what the skin on a rock looked like? I don’t get it.