Scientists have discovered fossils of a “super armored” worm that thrived in what is now southern China about 500 million years ago. Named Collinsium ciliosum or Hairy Collins’ Monster, the little creature was covered in up to 72 spikes. Researchers said it was among the first soft-bodied animals to have rows of spiky armor for protection.
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The worm lived about 515-518 million years ago
Findings of the study were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The Hairy Collins’ Monster also had feather-like front limbs to sieve food from the water. Javier Ortega-Hernández, a paleontologist at the University of Cambridge, said the fossils were beautifully preserved in China’s Yunnan province. The specimen was about 515-518 million years old.
The worm thrived during the Cambrian period, when a number of unusual animals came to existence and vanished. Its name recognizes the worm’s bizarre appearance and hair-like structures on the front. It also honors Canadian scientist Desmond Collins, who conceptualized a similar animal back in the 1980s. Scientists said the Hairy Collins’ Monster was a distant ancestor of modern velvet worms.
Hairy Collins’ Monster had a sedentary lifestyle
Besides the spiky structure, the fossil also shows its digestive tract. The eyeless worm measured up to four inches long, and had a downward-facing mouth. It had six pairs of front legs with feather-like structures, and nine pairs of rear legs with claws. It captured food particles by forming a feeding basket of its feathery front legs. Paleontologists believe that the animal lived a sedentary lifestyle, making it an easy target for other animals. So, it slowly developed sharp spikes on its body to protect itself.
Scientists said the Hairy Collins’ Monster was a close cousin of Hallucinogenic, another spiky Cambrian animal. Paleontologist Martin Smith, who described Hallucinogenic last week in a study published in the journal Nature, said even the Hairy Collins’ Monster and Hallucinogenic would have a lot of competition in a “Cambrian weirdest creature contest,” reports Reuters.