Fossil evidence points to a new ancient anthropod found related to that of a lobster-like creature, that was recently dubbed with the scientific moniker, ‘Yawunik kootenayi’.
The species was named after a mythological figure described by the Ktunaxa People who have long inhabited the region where the species was discovered.
The species was found in Marble Canyon site at the north end of the Kootenay National Park in the Canadian Rockies in Canada, as part of the Canadian Burgess Shale fossil deposit on the Alberta B.C. border. The ancient predator was an arthropod that swam the Cambrian seas.
Due to the fossil’s age it was determine that the creature predated the dinosaurs by some 250 million years, living 509 million years ago.
Fossil evidence shows the creature was a marine species of about 10 centimeters in length with two pairs of eyes and two front appendages with three long claws on each side. Four of the claws also bore opposing rows of teeth and long whip-like antennae that extended to the tips of its claws that helped the creature in catching its prehistoric prey.
Though the Yawunik was technically an arthropod it resembles a modern day crustacean and has links to modern day species like spiders, lobsters, and butterflies.
Cédric Aria, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto and lead author of the study published this week in the journal Palaeontology that the Yawunik belongs to a “stem group of anthropods” that makes it the long lost ancestor of some modern, current living creatures as diverse as spiders, shrimp, lobsters, and ants.
“It has the signature features of an arthropod with its external skeleton, segmented body and jointed appendages, but lacks certain advanced traits present in groups that survived until the present day,” Aria said.
The studies of the fossil says that Yawunik was capable of moving its frontal appendages back and forward, spreading them out during an attack, and retracting them underneath its body when swimming. It is thought that its frontal appendages are some of the most complex of all anthropods.
The study used cutting-edge technologies of fossil imagery, including elemental mapping which consist of detecting atomic composition of the fossil and surrounding sediment.
Aria estimates that over 100 specimens were found in the region and the Yawunik was the most abundant of the large new species found in the region.