Scientists have revised their views on the ancient shrimp-like predator


This sea creature, CNN tells CNN, earned its fearsome reputation because paleontologists believed it was responsible for scarring and crushing the fossilized skeletons of trilobites, early hard-shelled invertebrates that scampered across the seafloor before dying out in a mass extinction followed by dinosaurs.

Anomalocaris canadensis, 2 feet (0.6 meters) long, was one of the largest marine animals that lived 508 million years ago. The undersea hunter plied the seas during the Cambrian period, a critical moment in the planet’s history when there was an explosion in the diversity of life and many of the major groups of animals living today.

“I didn’t like it because trilobites have a very strong exoskeleton, which they essentially make out of stone, while this animal would be mostly soft,” said lead author Russell Bicknell, a researcher in the Department of Paleontology at the American Museum. natural history, who conducted the study. work while studying at the University of New England in Australia.

Russell Bicknell and colleagues from Germany, China, Switzerland and the United Kingdom have created a new 3D reconstruction of this creature using computer simulations to better understand its biomechanics. The model was based on a well-preserved but flattened fossil found in the Burgess Shale Formation in the Canadian Rockies.

Earlier studies had suggested that Anomalocaris mouthparts were incapable of processing solid food, so Bicknell and colleagues focused on whether its long, spiny appendages would be able to chew on trilobite prey.

Using modern whip scorpions and whip spiders as analogs because they have similar appendages that allow them to grasp prey, the research team was able to show that the predator’s segmented appendages were capable of grasping prey and could both stretch and bend.

However, the team’s analysis showed that the sea animal was weaker than originally thought and was “unable” to crush hard-shelled prey with two structures, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

It is more likely that the creature, which Bicknell described as a cross between a shrimp and a cuttlefish, was likely agile and fast, and chasing soft prey in well-lit open water rather than chasing hard-shelled creatures on the ocean floor.

“Previous concepts were that these animals treated Burges Shale fauna like a smorgasbord, hunting for whatever they please, but we are finding that the dynamics of Cambrian food webs were probably much more complex than we once thought. ,” Bicknell said in a statement.

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