In a paper published Tuesday in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology, Jean-Bernard Caron and Cédric Aria describe Ovatiovermis cribratus, which they believe to be one of the earliest examples from a massive category of creatures that includes every kind of arthropod both extinct and active.
Today’s arthropods include many familiar creepy-crawlies, including crustaceans and spiders. They make up around 80 percent of life on the planet.
Lobopodians are one extinct classification of arthropod, with around 30 species officially recognized, and newly discovered Ovatiovermis cribratus now joins that list. Lobopodians are generally identified by a few markers: life during the Cambrian period, wormlike bodies and between 20 and 30 appendages (often with defensive spikes).
The 500-million-year-old little guys described in the paper were about 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 centimeters) tall, and didn’t have the defensive spikes many lobopodians had. They ate by attaching their base to the sea floor and waving their toothed upper limbs around to grab food that happened to float by.
This is creepy but seriously fascinating…