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Sat, Feb

Prehistoric marine worm caught prey with spines deployed from head

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A team of scientists has identified a small marine predator that once patrolled the ocean floor and grabbed its prey with 50 spines deployed from its head.

Named Capinatator praetermissus, this ancient creature is roughly 10 centimetres long and represents a new species within the group of animals known as chaetognaths – small, swimming marine carnivores also known as arrow worms.

A team of scientists has identified a small marine predator that once patrolled the ocean floor and grabbed its prey with 50 spines deployed from its head.

Named Capinatator praetermissus, this ancient creature is roughly 10 centimetres long and represents a new species within the group of animals known as chaetognaths – small, swimming marine carnivores also known as arrow worms.

At more than 500 million-years-old, Capinatator is thought to be a forerunner of the smaller chaetognaths that are abundant in today’s oceans, where they make up a large portion of the world’s plankton and the ocean food chain. It is one of the largest chaetognaths known, according to a paper published today in Current Biology.

“This new species would have been an efficient predator and a terrifying sight to many of the smallest marine creatures that lived during that time,” said Jean-Bernard Caron, an associate professor in the departments of ecology & evolutionary biology and earth sciences at U of T's Faculty of Arts & Science.

 

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Photo via University of Toronto.