Prehistoric Terror

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Scientists recently discovered the fossils of an early carnivorous animal, a find that highlights how diverse the Earth’s oceans were more than half a billion years ago, CNN reported.

Expeditions to the Sirius Passet site in North Greenland uncovered the remains of a predatory worm that was one of the largest animals swimming in the seas during the Cambrian period from 485 million to 541 million years ago.

In their study, the research team wrote that the Timorbestia – Latin for “terror beast” – was roughly one foot long and fed on small arthropods of that period, such as Isoxys.

Although not as impressive as today’s great white sharks, the worm was considered an apex predator of the Cambrian era, which also included strange-looking distant relatives of crabs and lobsters called Anomalocaris.

“Timorbestia were giants of their day and would have been close to the top of the food chain,” said senior study author Jakob Vinther.

Vinther and his colleagues explained that the predatory worms are a distant relative of the smaller, modern arrow worms, the latter considered among the oldest animals that originated from the Cambrian period.

The discovery sheds light on the evolutionary timeline of worms and showcases shared features with modern arrow worms, suggesting a common ancestor over 500 million years ago.

The team noted that the Sirius Passet site also contains the remains of other relatives of the “terror beast” and they hope to learn more about the early food chain of the planet’s oceans.

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