400 Million Year Old Monster Worm With Terrifying Jaws Discovered

Posted: Feb 22 2017, 2:33pm CST | by , Updated: Feb 22 2017, 2:44pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

400 Million Year Old Monster Worm with Terrifying Jaws Discovered
An artist's impression of 'monster' worm attacking a fish in the Devonian sea. Credit: James Ormiston

Fossil remained stored at a Canadian museum for more than two decades before being identified as a new species

A fossil stored in a Canadian museum turned out to be a new monstrous worm species from ancient times.

Researchers from the University of Bristol, Lund University and the Royal Ontario Museum stumbled across the ancient fossil, left forgotten in a drawer, during their recent research work in the museum. They discovered that the fossil belonged to a giant extinct bristle worm that squirmed through the earth's surface 400 million years ago during Palaeozonic era.

The newfound worm species had terrifying snapping jaws which could reach more than 1 centimeter in length. Researchers says these are the largest jaws ever recorded in this type of creature. Most of the ancient jaws are only few millimeters long and are not visible to the naked eye.

By studying the fossil, the researchers deduced that the worm may have been 3 feet long, making it comparable to giant eunicid' species, known as “Bobbit worms.”

Bobbit worms are marine worms that still exist today. These fearsome predators use their powerful jaws to capture prey such as fish, squids and octopuses and drag them into the holes excavated in the ground.

The new giant species may help researchers to determine the maximum sizes these worms may have reached during their peak.

“The new species demonstrates a unique case of polychaete gigantism in the Palaeozoic, some 400 million years ago." Lead author Mats Eriksson from Lund University in Sweden said.

The specimen was originally discovered in June 1994, when a researcher named Derek K Armstrong investigated the rock and fossils buried at a remote site in Ontario only reachable by helicopter. The fossil samples were brought to Royal Ontario Museum and have been stored in the museum ever since.

“This is an excellent example of the importance of looking in remote and unexplored areas for finding new exciting things, but also the importance of scrutinizing museum collections for overlooked gems." David Rudkin, a curator at the museum said.

Researchers dubbed the new animal Websteroprion armstrongi. Armstrongi honors the collector of the fossil while the second part of its name pays tribute to Alex Webster, a bass player from a death-metal band Cannibal Corpse. As researchers explain, Alex Webster is a ‘giant’ when it comes to handling instrument. Similarly, W. Armstrongi was a giant being a worm.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir. With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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