It was thought that this marine monster, which gained its frightening reputation, was responsible for the scarring and crushing of the petrified skeletons of trilobites, early hard-shelled crustaceans that skittered about the bottom before dying out in the mass extinction that gave rise to the dinosaurs.
Anomalocaris canadensis, a 2-foot (0.6-meter)-long mammal, was one of the biggest marine creatures around 508 million years ago.
The submarine hunter prowled the waters throughout the Cambrian epoch, an important period in the history of the planet when there was an increase in the diversity of life and many significant animal groupings that are still alive now.
The study’s lead author, Russell Bicknell, a postdoctoral researcher in the division of paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History, conducted the research while at the University of New England in Australia.
“That didn’t sit right with me, because this animal would have been mostly soft and squishy, and trilobites have a very strong exoskeleton, which they basically make out of rock,” he said.
Bicknell and his colleagues from Germany, China, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom constructed a brand-new three-dimensional reconstruction of the species in order to better comprehend its biomechanics.
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Ancient Beauty Preserved
The fossil that served as the basis for the model was a well-preserved but flattened specimen discovered in the Burgess Shale formation of the Canadian Rockies.
Because previous studies had indicated that Anomalocaris’ mouth parts weren’t capable of breaking down hard food, Bicknell and his colleagues concentrated on the creature’s long, spiny appendages and their potential for breaking down trilobite prey.
The study team was able to demonstrate that the predator’s segmented limbs were able to catch prey and could both extend out and flex by using contemporary whip scorpions and whip spiders as analogs since they both had comparable appendages that allow them to hold prey.
The discovery was published on Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. However, the team’s investigation revealed the marine animal was weaker than previously thought and was “incapable” of crushing hard-shelled food with the two structures.