‘Giant’ predatory worm that ruled ancient oceans discovered in Greenland: ScienceAlert

‘Giant’ predatory worm that ruled ancient oceans discovered in Greenland: ScienceAlert

Before life on our planet exploded with diversity, Earth was once a “worm world,” dominated by writhing, tube-shaped creatures.

One of the oldest rulers of this ancient animal kingdom – a giant carnivorous worm – has now been found in fossil form.

More than 518 million years ago, this approximately 30-centimetre-long creature was one of the largest swimming animals in existence. Its relatively gigantic jaws, long antennae, and undulating fins would make it a formidable foe.

An international team of scientists, led by experts at the Korea Polar Research Institute (KPRI), has officially named the new species Verbest Bridge – The first part of it means “terrorist monsters” in Latin.

Timorbestia “They were giants of their time and were near the top of the food chain,” says Earth scientist Jacob Vinther of the University of Bristol.

“This makes them equivalent in importance to some of the best carnivores in modern oceans, such as Cambrian sharks and seals.”

Giant worm predator
Technical reconstruction of T bridge Based on its excavations. (Robert Nichols/Bob Nichols Art)

The discovery of this species is based on 13 fossils found in northern Greenland. In the digestive tract of some fossils, researchers have found evidence of food. Specifically, arthropods are called bivalves isoxis.

Today, living relatives Timur’s monster Known as arrow worms, they are small in size compared to many other animals that swim in the ocean. However, these worms are still important predators in the modern food web, feeding on primary prey such as zooplankton.

Fossils of arrowworm ancestors can be traced back 538 million years. This is millions of years older than known fossils of ancient arthropods, such as insects, spiders or crustaceans.

“Both arrow worms, the most primitive Timorbestia“They were swimming predators,” Venter explains.

“So we can assume that in all likelihood it was these predators that dominated the oceans before arthropods took off. They probably had a lineage going back about 10 to 15 million years before other, more successful groups took their place.”

Fossil worm specimens
Several samples of T bridge With matching diagrams. (Park et al., Advancement of science2024)

These were not the only predators of the time to be toppled from their ecological thrones. The rapid evolutionary diversification of life during the Cambrian explosion dramatically reshaped the food web.

Some scholars suspect that the days of the “worm world” paved the way for this crucial turning point.

In a 2016 article, for example, experts argued that evolutionary breakthroughs by ancient aquatic worms, “including novel strategies, behaviors, and physiology,” increased the diversity of ocean ecosystems and “ultimately signaled the curtain call” of the Precambrian. .

TimorbestiaFor example, it may have been an important evolutionary step in the evolution of internal jaws in predators. Ancient arrowworms, while closely related TimorbestiaThey catch their prey not with their mouths, but with external bristles.

“During a series of expeditions to the very remote Sirius Passet region in the far north of Greenland… we collected a large variety of new and exciting organisms,” says field expedition leader Tae-Yeon Park of the Korea Polar Research Institute.

“We have many exciting results to share in the coming years that will help show what the first animal ecosystems looked like and evolved.”

The study was published in Advancement of science.

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