Story at a glance

  • The fossil of the newly discovered species was excavated in the Kootenay National Park in Canada by researchers from the Royal Ontario Museum.
  • While Titanokorys measured just about 1.6 feet in length, relatively small by modern standards, the creature was massive compared to most sea life that were about the size of a pinky finger.
  • “The sheer size of this animal is absolutely mind-boggling, this is one of the biggest animals from the Cambrian period ever found,” researchers said.

Paleontologists have unearthed the fossil of an extinct species that appears to have been a giant of the seas half-a-billion years ago. 

The fossil of the newly discovered species called Titanokorys gainesis was excavated in the Kootenay National Park in Canada by researchers from the Royal Ontario Museum. The creature was discovered in the Burgess Shale fossil formation, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where a series of fossils have been discovered.

Titanokorys is part of a group of primitive arthropods called radiodonts, which emerged during the Cambrian explosion more than 540 million years ago. The event is when most of the major groups of animals first appeared in the fossil record. 

While Titanokorys measured just about 1.6 feet in length, relatively small by modern standards, the creature was massive compared to most sea life that were about the size of a pinky finger, according to researchers

“The sheer size of this animal is absolutely mind-boggling, this is one of the biggest animals from the Cambrian period ever found,” Jean-Bernard Caron, lead author of the study, said in a statement


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“These enigmatic animals certainly had a big impact on Cambrian seafloor ecosystems. Their limbs at the front looked like multiple stacked rakes and would have been very efficient at bringing anything they captured in their tiny spines towards the mouth. The huge dorsal carapace might have functioned like a plough,” Caron said. 

The creature had multifaceted eyes, a mouth shaped like a pineapple slice lined with teeth, spiny claws below its head to capture prey and a body lined with flaps for swimming. It also had a massive head. 

“Titanokorys is part of a subgroup of radiodonts, called hurdiids, characterized by an incredibly long head covered by a three-part carapace that took on myriad shapes. The head is so long relative to the body that these animals are really little more than swimming heads,” Joy Moysiuk, co-author of the study, said. 

The study was published Wednesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science.


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Published on Sep 08, 2021