Fossil arthropod went on the hunt for its prey

August 22, 2014

A new species of carnivorous crustacean has been identified, which roamed the seas 435 million years ago, grasping its prey with spiny limbs before devouring it. The fossil is described and details of its lifestyle are published in the open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.

The fossils were discovered near Waukesha, Wisconsin, with the new species, Thylacares brandonesis, named after the Brandon Bridge Formation where it was found. It is the oldest known example of the Thylacocephala group - shrimp-like creatures, mostly from the Jurassic period, known for their bulbous eyes and multiple limbs. The muscle structure and leg morphology of the new species suggests that it used its long, claw-like appendages to catch prey in a similar way to modern remipedes, blind crustaceans still found in salt water-filled caves.

Derek Briggs, Yale University, says: "This new research extends the range of this enigmatic group of fossil arthropods back to the Silurian, some 435 million years ago, and provides evidence that they belong among the crustaceans, the modern group that includes lobsters, shrimps and crabs."

Carolin Haug, LMU Munich, said: "T. brandonensis was probably an actively hunting predator, which caught the prey with its front claws and crushed it into smaller pieces with the protrusions nearer its mouthparts."

"This early, Silurian, example of Thylacocephala is in many ways much less extreme than the more recent Jurassic species. It still has normal-sized eyes in contrast to the very enlarged ones that came later, and shorter front claws in T. brandonensis compared to the extremely elongated ones in more recent Jurassic representatives."

The description of the new Silurian was part of a wider investigation into this group of fossils, including several new Jurassic specimens. Modern imaging techniques allowed the scientists to visualise new features, such as the tiny details of the T. brandonensis . Based on these images, they created 3D models of the , which help us to understand the creature's life habits.

Carolin Haug says that publication of the paper means that the donors of several of the specimens can see the results of their generosity.

"Several of the Jurassic specimens that were used for comparison to the newly described Silurian T. brandonensis were donated by private collectors, who usually have no affiliation to any university and thus no access to most normal publications. By being open access, we really bring our results to the public."

Explore further: Jurassic arthropod-plant interactions from the Australian fossil record

More information: The implications of a Silurian and other thylacocephalan crustaceans for the functional morphology and systematic affinities of the group, Carolin Haug, Derek EG Briggs, Donald G Mikulic, Joanne Kluessendorf and Joachim T Haug, BMC Evolutionary Biology 2014, 14:159, www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/14/159/

Related Stories

Brain of world's first known predators discovered

July 16, 2014

An international team of paleontologists has identified the exquisitely preserved brain in the fossil of one of the world's first known predators that lived in the Lower Cambrian, about 520 million years ago. The discovery ...

Recommended for you

Earliest evidence of reproduction in a complex organism

August 3, 2015

Researchers led by the University of Cambridge have found the earliest example of reproduction in a complex organism. Their new study has found that some organisms known as rangeomorphs, which lived 565 million years ago, ...

Model shows how surge in wealth inequality may be reversed

July 30, 2015

(Phys.org)—For many Americans, the single biggest problem facing the country is the growing wealth inequality. Based on income tax data, wealth inequality in the US has steadily increased since the mid-1980s, with the top ...

French teen finds 560,000 year-old tooth (Update)

July 28, 2015

A 16-year-old French volunteer archaeologist has found an adult tooth dating back around 560,000 years in southwestern France, in what researchers hailed as a "major discovery" Tuesday.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.