(ORDO NEWS) — Paleontologists have discovered an ancient crab fossil in the Chinese city of Chengjiang. The work of scientists from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The fossil reveals structural details of a group of Cambrian marine arthropod radiodonts that lived 500 million years ago. Scientists have found fossil specimens of a juvenile radiodont measuring 15 cm long and 5 cm wide.
The researchers initially identified the strange animal as a previously known species of radiodont. However, the fossil’s most anterior pair of limbs set it apart from all other radiodonts, leading to a reassessment of the fossil record.
The scientists say they discovered more than just a new genus, Innovatiocaris maotianshanensis. During its lifetime, this species was one of the ocean’s most feared predators.
“Their appearance about 520 million years ago in the early Cambrian indicates the formation of complex food webs and marine ecosystems.
In addition to their ecological importance, Radiodonta have very bizarre morphologies, such as backward-facing mouths, that have puzzled scientists for more than a century since their first fossil discoveries in the 1880s.
Spiny appendages near the mouth of Innovatiocaris maotianshanensis, large eyes and gills throughout the body indicate that arthropods hunted large prey. According to scientists, Innovatiocaris suggests a new evolutionary line in radiodonts.
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