This Terrifying Prehistoric Sea Worm Used To Capture Prey With Spines On Head

Posted: Aug 4 2017, 11:21pm CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 

This Terrifying Prehistoric Sea Worm Used to Capture Prey with Spines on Head
Illustration of Capinatator praetermissus. Credit: Royal Ontario Museum
 

The worm with pointy spins lived around 500 million years ago

More than 500 million years ago, a creature with multiple spines around its mouth swam the ancient oceans. 

It was roughly 4 inches long and was likely a relative to modern-day arrow worms that are abundant in oceans.  It had about 25 spines in each side of its head — nearly twice the number of spines than today’s arrow worms. The creature, though not a giant, tend to hunt for its prey with Venus flytrap-like spines, making it one of the most terrifying predators of its time. Once small prey such as larvae and crustaceans came too close to it, it snapped its spines and ate them.

“The spines are like miniature hooks, although more gently curved. They were stiff rather than flexible. It's hard to say why there are so many spines in the fossil example – but presumably thus armed it was a successful predator." Lead researcher Derek Briggs from Yale University who alongside his colleagues discovered the fossil in two national parks in Canadian province of British Columbia said in a statement.

The creature has been dubbed Capinatator praetermissus. The name is derived from two Latin words: “capio,” which means “to grasp,” and “natator,” which means “swimmer.” The newly discovered creature is so different that it has been assigned to a new genus and a new species. 

“This new species was well adapted to capturing prey with the numerous, claw-like spines surrounding its mouth. Darting from the water depths, the spines would have been a terrifying sight to many of the smallest marine creatures that lived during that time.” Co researcher Jean-Bernard Caron, a curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum said.

Capinatator praetermissus lived at a time when creatures started to get bigger and more diverse. However, it is difficult to find complete fossils from the chaetognatha family due to their soft bodies. Their bodies usually decay after death but the new specimen is exceptionally well preserved and its soft tissues are still fully intact. The discovery sheds new light into evolution of modern-day chaetognatha.

“The specimens preserve evidence of features such as the gut and muscles, which normally decay away, as well as the more decay-resistant grasping spines,” Briggs said. “They show that chaetognath predators evolved during the explosion of marine diversity during the Cambrian Period, and were an important component of some of the earliest marine ecosystems.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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