3-Foot “Shrimp” Discovered—Dominated Prehistoric Seas
“It would have made enough scampi to feed an army for a month.”
Published May 27, 2011
The specimens include the largest yet of its kind and suggests the spiny, somewhat shrimplike beasts dominated pre-dinosaur seas for millions of years longer than thought.
Early offshoots of an evolutionary line that led to modern crustaceans, the so-called anomalocaridids looked sort of like modern cuttlefish. But the fossil creatures had spiny limbs sprouting from their heads and circular, plated mouths, which opened and closed like the diaphragm of a camera.
Previous anomalocaridid fossils had shown the animals grew to perhaps 2 feet (0.6 meter) long, which already would have made them the largest animals of the Cambrian period (542 to 501 million years ago)—an evolutionarily explosive time, when invertebrate life evolved into many new varieties, such as sea lilies and worms.
But at a foot longer than previous specimens, the largest of the new anomalocaridids suggests the segmented animals grew to bigger sizes than scientists had imagined.
“It would have made enough scampi to feed an army for a month—it was giant, and no doubt very tasty,” quipped study co-author Derek Briggs, director of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History.
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