Researchers have discovered an armored worm with spikes and 30 legs in China. Scientists estimate that the scary creature lived almost 518 million years ago, in the Cambrian Period. More details about the newly-discovered creature can be found in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The research was carried by scientists from the University of Cambridge in collaboration with researchers from the Yunnan University. Collinsium ciliosum which was discovered in the province of Yunnan has 12 legs in the front of its body and 18 in the rear. It seems to be one of the first creatures which used specialized limbs in order to catch its prey. The worm is also provided with an armor which protected it from predators. That is not all. In addition, the front legs of the armored worm have feather-like appendages which most likely helped the worm crawl on the muddy surface of the ocean. On the other hand the rear legs seem to have ended in claws which means they were probably used to dig into prey such as sponges. This process of feeding can be observed nowadays in the case of bamboo shrimps.
According to its anatomy the armored worm seems to be a distant ancestor of present-day velvet worms which are also known as onychophorans. They are a small group which consists of only 180 species. They are squishy and resemble legged worms and live in tropical forests and have slime as their prey.
The body of the newly-discovered worm has six-dozen sharp spikes which protect it against other creatures. It also seems to resemble another species which lived around that time and is known as Hallucigenia. Javier Ortega-Hernández from the University of Cambridge, the Department of Earth Sciences, remarked:
“Both creatures are lobopodians, or legged worms, but the Collins’ Monster sort of looks like Hallucigenia on steroids. It had much heavier armor protecting its body, with up to five pointy spines per pair of legs, as opposed to Hallucigenia’s two.”
Researcher of arthropod evolution Greg Edgecombe from the Natural History Museum in London was not involved in the study, but he described the study as a superb description and sad that the fossils are absolutely exquisite.
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