A curious pair of fossils discovered at the Burgess Shale dig site in British Columbia didn't look quite like any Lobopodian previously found, so two Royal Ontario Museum researchers set out to get to the bottom of the mystery.
In a paper published Tuesday in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology, Jean-Bernard Caron and Cédric Aria describe Ovatiovermis cribratus, which they believe to be one of the earliest examples from a massive category of creatures that includes every kind of arthropod both extinct and active.
Today's arthropods include many familiar creepy-crawlies, including crustaceans and spiders. They make up around 80 percent of life on the planet.
Lobopodians are one extinct classification of arthropod, with around 30 species officially recognized, and newly discovered Ovatiovermis cribratus now joins that list. Lobopodians are generally identified by a few markers: life during the Cambrian period, wormlike bodies and between 20 and 30 appendages (often with defensive spikes).
The 500-million-year-old little guys described in the paper were about 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 centimeters) tall, and didn't have the defensive spikes many lobopodians had. They ate by attaching their base to the sea floor and waving their toothed upper limbs around to grab food that happened to float by.
O. cribratus is thought to be the earliest of the "Panarthropods," which refers to the umbrella group covering every kind of arthropod subcategory. The scientists even made a render of what the creature would look like if it were around today. Check out the YouTube video above.
Like many of the coolest species, this one's both beautiful and unnerving to watch in motion. And also kind of horrifying to imagine coming across in person.
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