The name of this curious species is Innovatiocaris maotianshanensis. The genus name refers to the Latin words for “innovation” and “crab” and its species to Maotianshan, the place in Chengjiang where the fossils were discovered, the researchers say in their study published in the Journal of the Geological Society. .
When this strange creature lived on our planet, some 520 million years ago, it would have been quite a dangerous animal: a fearsome predator of the ocean thanks to its pair of arm-like appendages covered with sharp teeth; and a long, broad barbed tail , which would have been the aquatic nightmare of the Cambrian period (541 million to 485.4 million years ago).
“Its appearance in the early Cambrian, about 520 million years ago, indicated the formation of complex food webs and marine ecosystems,” the authors explain. “In addition to their ecological importance, radiodonts have a very strange morphology that has puzzled scientists for more than a century since their first fossil discoveries in [the] 1880s.”
Radiodonts are among the oldest giant predators on the planet.
The juvenile individual in question, the one discovered in 1990 at Chengjiang Lagerstätte, a site in the Chinese province of Yunnan, measures almost 15 centimeters long and approximately 5 cm wide, and belongs to a group of extinct ancient arthropods that inhabit the ocean called radiodonts. Of course, it is a species previously unknown to science.
And with each new fossil radiodont discovery, new questions are raised about the ecology and evolution of this group throughout its 120-million-year history. How did these creatures evolve? Exactly how many species were there in our oceans? How did they hunt their prey?
Referencia: Innovatiocaris, a complete radiodont from the early Cambrian Chengjiang Lagerstätte and its implications for the phylogeny of Radiodonta
Authors: Han Zeng, Fangchen Zhao https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8473-4439 [email protected], and Maoyan ZhuAuthors Info & Affiliations
Publication: Journal of the Geological Society 2022 Research article
7 September 2022