A very odd “alien-looking” sea creature that lived about 500 million years ago during the Cambrian Period was discovered in Canada. Palaeontologists from the Royal Ontario Museum found the newly identified species in rocks at the Burgess Shale in the Yoho National Park and Kootenay National Park in the province of British Columbia.
The Cambrian Period was a very important time for animal evolution as described by Joe Moysiuk from the Royal Ontario Museum, “All of the major animal body plans first evolved then.” “We see the first representatives of things that looked like fish, things that looked like insects and crabs. Any other animal you might dream up, it most likely had some relative from the Cambrian period.” But as for this new species, which has been named Titanokorys gainesi, Moysiuk said that “These things are very alien-looking.”
At half a billion years old, the Titanokorys gainesi predated the dinosaurs. Additionally, its large size was particularly rare for that time as explained by Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron who is the museum’s curator, “This is an animal that is half-a-billion years old and lived in the ocean at the time.” “It’s about 50 to 60 centimetres long. It doesn’t seem like a lot today but at the time of the Cambrian period, 500 million years ago, this was a giant.” He went on to say that it is one of the largest creatures ever found from that time period.
It was flat with a horseshoe-shaped plate that provided protection for its head; armored plates that were beneath it; and gill slits located towards the back of the creature. It had “multifaceted eyes, a pineapple slice-shaped, tooth-lined mouth, a pair of spiny claws below its head to capture prey and a body with a series of flaps for swimming.” In fact, Caron described the creature as looking like a floating head that is wearing a big helmet. The researchers detailed this by saying that its “incredibly long head” was “so long relative to the body that these animals are really little more than swimming heads.” The creature more than likely swam at the bottom of the sea where it would catch its food.
In December of this year, the Titanokorys gainesi fossil will be put on display in a permanent exhibit at the museum that will also include several other fossils that have been found throughout Canada. “This is going to be a flagship new gallery about the early evolution of life up to the dinosaurs,” Caron noted, adding, “There’s billions of years of life before the dinosaurs and people will be excited to hear these stories.” Their study was published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.