After last-week’s discovery of Hallucigenia fossil, researchers identified a new type of Cambrian oddity dubbed Collin’s monster. The monster has numerous pairs of legs, a thick armored body, a couple of antennas, countless spikes on its back, and a unique way of feeding and surviving in though environments.
The 4-inches long worm-like creature has nine pairs of rear limbs and six pairs of feathery forelimbs. The rear limbs end in strong claws which were used by the super-armored animal to stick onto rocks or sponges, while the forelimbs were used to filter nutrients out of water or confuse small prey and direct it toward its mouth.
Unlike Hallucigenia whose head was only recently discovered by scientists, Collin’s monster, or Collinsium ciliosum, has perfectly preserved fossils. And researchers found a trove of 30 intact fossils in Southern China.
The creature bears the name of its initial discoverer Desmond Collins who first found a Collinsium ciliosum fossil in the 1980s in a remote site in Canada, but failed to categorize it under a new species. The animal is also the ancestor of the modern-day velvet worm, a very colorful ground worm that spits slime at its prey to confuse it.
The recently found fossils of Collinsium were discovered by a team of palaeontologists led by Javier Ortega-Hernández, a senior researcher at the Cambridge University’s Department of Earth Sciences. Mr. Ortega-Hernández believes that the wormlike creature thrived in the Cambrian but slowly went extinct, clearing the way to the velvet worm.
The fossils were investigated by a joint team from the University of Cambridge and Yunnan University in China. And a paper with the study’s results was published June 30 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Dr. Ortega-Hernández explained that current day velvet worms have a homogenous body organization and a boring lifestyle compared to their ancestors.
“But during the Cambrian, the distant relatives of velvet worms were stunningly diverse and came in a surprising variety of bizarre shapes and sizes,”
the researcher concluded.
The fossils found in Southern China were exquisitely well-preserved, so researchers had the opportunity of investigating its entire body organization from its digestive system to the spikes on its back. The team found that the claws from its rear limbs were used by the small creature to cling onto hard objects on the ocean floor where it just stood and filtered nutrients from seawater.
Some modern-day animals like the bamboo shrimp employ a similar method of feeding, but Collin’s monster is closely related to another legged worm from the Cambrian period – Hallucigenia. Dr. Ortega-Hernández even said that Collinsium ciliosum sort of looked like “Hallucigenia on steroids.”
Image Source: Sci-News