Tuesday, 30 June 2015

500 million-year-old spiky armored worm discovered

June 29, 2015

Shayne Jacopian for redOrbit.com – @ShayneJacopian

A new species of strange “super-armored,” spike-covered, and kind of scary-sounding worm has been discovered by paleontologists from the University of Cambridge and Yunman University in China.

The worm is named Collinsium ciliosum, or the Hairy Collins’ Monster, after paleontologist Desmond Collins who first discovered a similar fossil in Canada in the ‘80s. It clung to the backs of sponges with its nine pairs of clawed legs and ate by filtering nutrients out of water with its six pairs of feathery front legs, fending off would-be predators with an armored body covered in as many as 72 hard, sharp spikes in varying sizes.

Of course, this weirdo worm was around about half a billion years ago, so you don’t have to worry about stepping on one—the spiny worms lived on the ocean floor, anyway.

According to a release from the University of Cambridge, analysis of the creature’s form and evolutionary relationships shows that the Collins’ Monster is an ancestor of modern velvet worms—squishy creatures resembling legged worms that live in tropical rainforests.

A worm in shining armor
One of the first animals on Earth to develop armor to protect itself from predators—compensation for its slow, sedentary behavior—Collinsium ciliosum lived near present-day China during the Cambrian explosion, a period of rapid evolutionary development during which most major animal groups first began to appear in the fossil record, according to the source.

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