Scientists have unearthed a perfectly preserved fossil of a weird-looking armored worm dating back to the Cambrian period. Collin’s monster, or Collinsium ciliosum, had numerous spikes on its back, two antennas on its head, nine pairs of rear limbs that ended in claws, and six pairs of feathery forelimbs.
Additionally, the odd animal had also a thick armor that shielded it from predators, researchers wrote in their paper.
The worm, whose size varied from 1.95 inch to 5.85 inches, was discovered in Southern China. Researchers were thrilled to find there 30 perfectly preserved specimens. The creature was named after paleontologist Desmond Collins who discovered a very similar fossil in the 1980s but failed to categorize it properly.
Collin’s monster is the cousin of another Cambrian creature called Hallucigenia. But because it has even more spikes and limbs it was nicknamed “Hallucigenia on steroids” by its finders.
Javier Ortega-Hernández of the University of Cambridge and co-author of a study on the monster was startled when he discovered the “peculiar” creature.
Nevertheless, because the creature was exquisitely preserved researchers had no headaches in identifying its body parts. In Hallucigenia’s case, it took more than 40 years for paleontologists to properly tell its head from tail because the initial finder analyzed an up-side down image of the animal.
Scientists claim that both creatures are remote relatives of the modern-day velvet worm, a colorful worm that stuns its prey by spitting slime at it. Yet, the three species of worms share few visual features. Scientists could find a link between them by analyzing their claws.
All three species of worms have a claw-within-a-claw system. Mr. Ortega-Hernández explained. But similarities end here, since Hallucigenia and Collin’s monster can become nightmare material, while velvet worms are really “cute.” And despite their cuteness, they are “one-trick kind of pony,” researchers noted, because all they can really do is immobilize their prey by spitting slime at them.
That’s because modern-day velvet worms are ground worms and life iss not as challenging as it used to be where Hallucigenia and the other monster lived. These latest two creatures fed and dwellt in harsher environments – either deep-sea waters or mud.
Collin’s monster habitat is believed to be the depths of the ocean. Paleontologists believe that it used its rear limbs to cling onto firm objects such as rocks, corals or sponges. Additionally, it must have used its feathery forelimbs to either filter nutrients or confuse prey and draw it into its hungry mouth.