Fossil of a marine creature that lived 500 million years ago is found in Canada

Titanokorys Gainesi

An artistic impression of the arthropod seen from the front. Illustration: Lars Fields, Royal Ontario Museum

During the Cambrian Explosion, more than 500 million years ago, the oceans were occupied by strange creatures that live on Earth. One such specimen was recently discovered in the Canadian mountains and is now one of the largest animals known at the time.

the animal is Titanokorys Gainesi and it resembles a tank and had multifaceted eyes, a ring-shaped mouth that looks like a slice of pineapple, claws to capture prey, flaps for swimming and a head covered by a huge carapace. It was a member of a group of primitive arthropods called radiodons, the fossil’s morphology and the circumstances of its discovery were published on Wednesday (08) in Royal Society Open Science.

“The first specimens were found in 2014, but it wasn’t until 2018 that we discovered a particularly untouched carapace [e] we recognize the importance of this discovery,” said Joe Moysiuk, paleobiologist at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and co-author of the article, in an email to Gizmodo US. “My coauthor Jean-Bernard shared a particularly large shale slab, and I remember hearing a gasp followed by a lot of screaming and everyone crowding around. We found a lot of cool stuff, but this one really made an impression!”.

Titanokorys Gainesi
The holotype specimen of T. gainesi, with a carapace on the underside and two ridge plates on the top. Photo: Jean-Bernard Caron, Royal Ontario Museum

The team found the fossil in Burgess Shale, Canada, a stretch of rock in western North America that yielded well-preserved remains of animals that lived during the Cambrian period (541 to 485 million years ago) when the area was covered. by sea. O T. gainesi and other predators like him would be a sort of filter, scouring the mud and sucking up whatever bits were used to feed.

Part of this petrified seabed, raised over time by tectonic changes, now makes up the shale high up in Canada’s Yoho National Park. To drive the fossil down the mountain, Moysiuk said, the team wrapped it in foam, duct tape and cut pieces of pool noodles and then suspended the package from a helicopter.

Two years ago, the same team found a similar animal in the shape of the Gainesi ; they called him cambroraster falcatus by the way it resembled the franchise Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon Star Wars. The stone even preserves the soft tissue remnants of these Cambrian creatures, which means paleontologists can study their tiny evolutionary relics in more detail than many dinosaurs, which appeared about 300 million years later.

Perhaps the most impressive feature of the T. gainesi be your size. Most of the animals that inhabited the Cambrian oceans were smaller than a little finger; this one is about a foot long. If it had the average human height, a T. gainesi in relative proportion it would be almost 12 meters tall.

“The size of this animal is absolutely mind-blowing, this is one of the largest animals from the Cambrian period ever found,” said lead author Jean-Bernard Caron, a paleontologist at the Royal Ontario Museum, in a museum press release.

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“These enigmatic animals have certainly had a major impact on the ecosystems of the Cambrian seabed. Their front limbs looked like multiple stacked rakes and would have been very efficient in bringing anything they caught in their tiny spines to their mouths. The huge dorsal carapace could have functioned like a plow,” added Caron.