Species of predatory worms more than 500 million years old discovered in Greenland

Reconstruction of the pelagic ecosystem and fossil organisms of Sirius Passet, showing that the worm was one of the largest predators more than 518 million years ago (Work by Bob Nicholls – University of Bristol)

Ediacaran-Cambrian transition (about 540 million years ago) was noted exceptionally large expansion in the diversity and disparity of animals, which coincided with the exploration of new regions through excavation strategies deeper and more diverse and colonization of water layers. Diversity of animals around the world. Ediacaran-Cambrian transition is increasingly recognized as two- or three-stage change in variety: first in “Worm worldlate Ediacaran, followed by later expansion during Early Cambrian (Terrenevsky), the diversity of which finally expanded noticeably during Cambrian Age.

In accordance with this knowledge, a work was published in the journal. Journal “Progress of Science” which reports that fossils of a new group of animals have been discovered predators in the city of Sirius Passet from the Early Cambrian, in the north Greenland. These large worms may be one of the first predatory animals which colonized the water column more than 518 million years ago, revealing past dynasty of predators The existence of which scientists did not know.

New fossils have names Timorbeast, which is Latin for “terrorist beasts.” Secured fins on the sides his body distinctive head with a long huge mustache jaw structures in his mouth, growing to more than 30 cm in length, these were one of the largest swimming animals belonging Early Cambrian.

Fossil Timorebestia koprii, the largest known specimen, almost 30 cm or 12 inches long (photo: Dr. Jakob Winter)

It was already known that primitive arthropods were the dominant predators in the Cambrian period, such as the strange anomalocarid species. However, Timorbist – distant relative, but at the same time close to living arrows or brush worms. Today these are much smaller oceanic predators that feed tiny zooplankton. Research shows that these ancient ocean ecosystems were quite complex, with food chains that allowed for varying levels of predators.

Timorbeast were giants of their time and it would be close to top of the food chain. This makes them equivalent in importance to some of the main predators modern oceans, such as sharks and seals, but also Cambrian period. Inside fossilized digestive system Timorebestia researchers discovered the remains common swimming arthropod called Isoxysthat was food source for many other animals. They are very common in Sirius Passet and they had long protective spikes pointing both forward and backward. However, they clearly could not avoid such a fate, because he chewed them in large quantities.

arrows worms are one of oldest animal fossils Cambria. While arthropods They appear in the fossil record between 521 and 529 million years ago, with the first dating back to at least 538 million years ago.

Dr. Jakob Winter in Sirius Passet in 2017 shows the largest specimen of Timorebestia since its discovery (EFE/Jakob Winter)

Both arrows worms as the most primitive Timorbeast were swimming predators. Therefore, the researchers point out that it can be assumed that, in all likelihood, they were predators who dominated oceans before arthropods appeared. Maybe they had dynasty that lasted approximately 10 to 15 million years before they were replaced by other groups.

He Timorbeast It’s a really important discovery to understand where they come from. predators with jaws. Currently arrows worms They have menacing bristles on the outside of their heads to catch prey. Timorbeast It has jaws inside its head. This is what is observed today in microscopic jaw worms: organisms with which shooters shared a common ancestor more than 500 million years ago. This and similar fossils provide links between closely related organisms that look very different today. This discovery confirms how Arrow worms have evolved.

Throughout the series expeditions to the very distant Sirius Passetin the farthest corners of the north Greenland, more than 82.5˚ north latitude, scientists collected a wide variety of new organisms during this study. Thanks to remarkable and exceptional preservation provided by this site, they may also reveal interesting anatomical details, including their digestive system, muscular anatomy and nervous system.

* Jacob Winter is the author of the study and a research fellow in the Departments of Geosciences and Biological Sciences at Bristo University.

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