Thursday, 12 September 2019

Nightmare Creature Had Egg-Shaped Eyes, Swiss Army Knife Head and a Butt Shield

The animal was no bigger than a human thumb, but it was a deadly predator.

A spiky, armor-plated "walking tank" with bulging eyes, a shield on its butt and a head like a Swiss army knife scuttled along the seafloor more than 500 million years ago, snapping up prey with a deadly pair of mouth pincers called chelicerae.

Researchers discovered astoundingly well-preserved fossils of these thumb-size predators in 2012, and a new study recently described the creatures, determined to be a previously unknown species now dubbed Mollisonia plenovenatrix. Scientists have found dozens of fossils of this species in recent years that include preserved soft tissue of the mouthparts, along with the animals' multiple legs and bulbous eyes.

The mouth pincers, in particular, caught scientists' attention. Chelicerae are found in a diverse group of animals called chelicerates; the group includes more than 115,000 species alive today, among them spiders, scorpions and horseshoe crabs. These fossils provided the oldest evidence to date of these mouth appendages. But these robust pincers may have originated in an unknown species that is even older, the study said.

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