Giant ‘swimming head’ discovered in Canadian Rockies was an early ocean predator

·2-min read

Within the Canadian Rockies, researchers have found fossil fragments of a Titanokorys gainesi - an oddly-shaped, newly discovered sea animal whose head took up almost half of its body.

According to a new study, the creature roamed ocean floors 500 million years ago. It measured roughly 1.6 feet, a massive animal relative to other sea creatures at the time which were just a few inches long.

"The sheer size of this animal is absolutely mind-boggling, this is one of the biggest animals from the Cambrian period ever found," said study author Jean-Bernard Caron, the Royal Ontario Museum’s Richard M. Ivey Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology, in a statement.

The Cambrian period, dating back 540 million years ago, was a time when an explosion of animals appeared on Earth. This included arthropods, to which Titanokorys gainesi belongs, which have an external skeleton, segmented body, and appendages.

The giant sea animal had alien-like characteristics: a pineapple-sliced-shaped mouth, claws, and large eyes. But what stands out is its “swimming head,” which looks like a dome with spikes.

“The head is so long relative to the body that these animals are really little more than swimming heads," co-author Joe Moysiuk, a doctoral student of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Toronto, said in a statement.

The Titanokorys gainesi most likely used its huge, spiky head to dig through the seafloor and capture prey with its claws.

The predator resembles the Cambroraster falcatus which was found in the same area two years ago. Researchers said that creature, which has a helmet-like head, was akin to the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars.

Next summer, the researchers plan to go back to the same area to search for a more complete fossil of the Titanokorys gainesi.

"It’s a bit of a jigsaw puzzle story here, like many of its predecessors and many other radiodonts we’ve found in the past based on fragmentary evidence," Dr Caron told LiveScience.

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