Mysterious 500 Million-Year-Old Ocean Predators Could Be the Ancestors of Spiders
by Annalee Newitz
Anomalocarids are one of the oldest families of animals on Earth, and they looked like nightmarish sea scorpions. But a new fossil discovery actually contains traces of their brain structure — and amazingly, their half-billion-year-old brains look a lot like an arachnid’s.
Though some anomalocarids may have been as big as 7 feet long, these newly-discovered specimens are closer to the size of today’s arachnids. The critters you see fossilized below are about 8 cm long. Still, they look pretty insane — especially when you consider that their segmented heads are so similar to what we’d see in an arachnid today. A team of paleontologists led by Peiyun Cong found the three gorgeously-preserved anomalocarid fossils in Yunnan Province, and described them today in Nature…
Anomalocarid illustration by John Meszaros
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