Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Half-billion-year-old predator tracked: Multi-legged creature ruled the seas

Date:
November 9, 2011
Source:
University of Saskatchewan
Summary:
Researchers in Canada have followed fossilized footprints to a multi-legged predator that ruled the seas of the Cambrian period about half a billion years ago.

Tegopelte gigas from the Walcott Quarry Shale Member at the Walcott Quarry. (a) Holotype (USNM 189201) showing the hypostome, H, left antennae, La, right antennae, Ra, notches, n, at the anterior and posterior end, and the alimentary canal, al. Scale bar, 30 mm (b) Counterpart of the holotype showing the gut diverticulae, gd. Scale bar, 30 mm (c) Details of gut diverticulae. Scale bar, 10 mm (d) Paratype (USNM 189200) showing the additional presence of a left eye, Le and right eye, Re. Eyes are tear-shaped and likely ventral in position. Scale bar, 30 mm.
Credit: Images courtesy Smithsonian Institution – National Museum of Natural History / Photos: Jean-Bernard Caron

Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan and Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) have followed fossilized footprints to a multi-legged predator that ruled the seas of the Cambrian period about half a billion years ago.

"Short of finding an animal at the end of its trackway, it's really very rare to be able to identify the producer so confidently," said Nicholas Minter, lead author of the article on the study, which appears in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Minter is a postdoctoral research fellow in the U of S department of geological sciences.

The research team worked with samples gathered from the Burgess Shale, famed for its exquisitely detailed fossils from the Cambrian Explosion, a time when life underwent a dramatic change with the appearance of all the modern groups of organisms and some bizarre creatures. Located near the village of Field in Canada's Yoho National Park in British Columbia, the Burgess Shale is an international treasure, providing an unparalleled window into the distant past.

Fossils from the Burgess Shale record not only the animals themselves -- exceedingly rare because most of them had soft bodies -- but also the trackways they left behind while hunting on the sea floor.

"Most researchers have focused on the body fossils of the Burgess Shale," said study co-author Gabriela Mαngano, who co-leads the ichnology research group in the U of S geological sciences department with colleague Luis Buatois. "By studying its trackways, trails and burrows, we may dramatically impact our understanding of these ancient ecosystems."

Key to the research were trackways collected during a field expedition in 2008 led by ROM curator Jean-Bernard Caron.

"I spotted a portion of the largest trackway, which is over three metres in length, in 2000," he said. "At that time we left most of it behind us. We could not carry the pieces safely down slope from this remote site without helicopter support."

The 2008 expedition included this support, so fragments of the trackway were collected by carefully separating them from the associated rock layers. These delicate pieces were then packed, air lifted from the mountain, and shipped to theROM.

Fossil trackways and other fossilized evidence of animal activities such as burrows, bite marks and feces are known as trace fossils. These provide evidence of where animals were living and what they were doing, but the full identity of the producers is rarely known.

In this case, size of the tracks and the number of legs needed to make them left only one suspect: Tegopelte gigas. This caterpillar-like animal sported a smooth, soft shell on its back and 33 pairs of legs beneath. One of the largest arthropods of its time, it could reach up to 30 cm in length.

By analyzing both the fossilized remains of Tegopelte and the trackways, the researchers were able to reconstruct how this animal would have moved. The creature was capable of skimming rapidly across the seafloor, with legs touching the sediment only briefly, supporting the view that Tegopelte was a large and active top carnivore. Such lifestyles would have been important in shaping early marine communities and evolution during the Cambrian explosion.

The trackways were collected under Parks Canada Research and Collecting permits and are now located at the ROM. Managed by Parks Canada, the Burgess Shale was recognized in 1981 as one ofCanada's first UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Now protected under the larger Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Burgess Shale attracts visitors to Yoho each year for guided hikes to the restricted fossil beds from July to September.

The full article, "Skimming the surface with Burgess Shale arthropod locomotion," is published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Photos and illustrations related to the article are available from the authors. Funding for this research was provided through grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship Program, the U of S and ROM.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Saskatchewan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. N. J. Minter, M. G. Mangano, J.-B. Caron. Skimming the surface with Burgess Shale arthropod locomotion. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2011.1986

Cite This Page:

University of Saskatchewan. "Half-billion-year-old predator tracked: Multi-legged creature ruled the seas." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 November 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111108201411.htm>.
University of Saskatchewan. (2011, November 9). Half-billion-year-old predator tracked: Multi-legged creature ruled the seas. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111108201411.htm
University of Saskatchewan. "Half-billion-year-old predator tracked: Multi-legged creature ruled the seas." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111108201411.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Fossils & Ruins News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre

Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre

AP (July 29, 2014) — Food scraps and other items left on the grounds by picnickers brings unwelcome visitors to the grounds of the world famous and popular Louvre Museum in Paris. (July 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
London's Famed 'Gherkin' Goes on Sale for £650 Mln

London's Famed 'Gherkin' Goes on Sale for £650 Mln

AFP (July 29, 2014) — London's "Gherkin" office tower, one of the landmarks on the British capital's skyline, went on sale for about £650 million ($1.1 billion, 820 million euros) on Tuesday after being placed into receivership. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) — The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tourists Disappointed to Find Rome Attractions Under Restoration

Tourists Disappointed to Find Rome Attractions Under Restoration

AFP (July 26, 2014) — Tourists visiting Italy at the peak of the summer season are disappointed to find some of Rome's most famous attractions being restored and offering limited access. Duration: 01:01 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins