Scientists recently released a study about a somewhat unpleasant animal. This is an ancient worm that had huge jaws, a very uncommon fact. And this worm may also offer a prime example of the ancient gigantism.
For probably the big majority of people, worms are not quite the most pleasant conversation subject. But nonetheless, a new discovery raises some interesting questions. Ones that revolve around an ancient worm.
Fossils of this species were discovered back in 1994. But they were left unanalyzed for over two decades. But recently, a team of researchers took to studying them. Which made them realize that they have been holding an unknown species. One that could also be holding some quite relevant features.
The team to study the ancient marine worm fossils has an international componence. It was based on Royal Ontario Museum and Lund University in Sweden scientists. And also from University of Bristol researchers. They were led by Mats Eriksson, a Lund University Professor.
Study results were released earlier this week. They were published in the Nature journal. Available online since February 21st, the paper was titled as follows. “Earth’s oldest ‘Bobbit worm’ – gigantism in a Devonian eunicidian polychaete”.
The fossils were discovered in northern Ontario by Derek Armstrong. They revealed traces of an ancient worm belonging to the Polychaeta class. This was determined based on their jaws.
Polychaeta are the marine relatives of earthworms. Most usually, they have tiny jaws. These are in between 0.1 to 2 millimeters. In contrast, the ancient worm fossil jaws are about half an inch.
This significant size difference, as well as other jaw structural differences, led to the following conclusion. This must be a new, previously undetected species.
The new ancient worm species was named Websterprion armstrongi. According to the research, it may have measured over 3 feet long.
This result also led to another conclusion. The newly discovered ancient worm species may be a prime example of gigantism. This is the term used in describing the phenomenon of growing to significantly large sizes.
And their findings suggest the following. “Polychaete gigantism” may have been a phenomenon in the Paleozoic. Studies suggest that the ancient worm is some 400 million years old. Which places its existence in the Paleozoic era.
The ancient worm species has some rather unusual features. Its impressive size is a prime example. And also its huge pair of jaws. This is believed to have helped it capture its prey. And it may have even had quite a surprising hunting strategy.
Scientists based this affirmation on its similarity to a modern worm. This is the Eunice aphroditois. The species hides under seafloor sands and snatches its prey with its lighting fast jaws.
Professor Lund, the study lead, also offered some details. According to him, the ancient worm could have gained an undeniable “evolutionary edge”. He also stated that animal gigantism is very important. It is an ecological and alluring trait. One that is usually linked to competitive dominance and advantages.
Prof. Lund considers that this recent finding could help deepen science’s understanding on gigantism. More exactly, on how it arose. And also on how it developed, especially amongst marine worms. Gigantism has never before been demonstrated in such a fossil species.
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