Extracted carapace fossil of Cambroraster falcatusis shown in this handout image. Filming Researchers at the Royal Ontario Museum and University of Toronto have uncovered fossils of a large predatory species in 506-million year old rocks in the Canadian Rockies. (Red Trillium Films-Andrew Gregg)

‘Fearsome-looking animal’ fossil discovered in Kootenay National Park

Researchers expect the animal was living at the bottom of the sea

Researchers at the Royal Ontario Museum and University of Toronto have uncovered fossils of a large predatory species in 506 million-year-old rocks in the Canadian Rockies in British Columbia.

The species, described in a study published Tuesday in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is named Cambroraster Falcatus.

“This animal has this really unique looking frontal carapace, or shield-like structure, covering its head,” said Joseph Moysiuk, a PhD student at the University of Toronto and lead author of the study.

“It’s like nothing we had seen before. But we actually nicknamed it in the field: The Spaceship.”

The species, which is the earliest relative of insects, crabs and spiders, was found at the Burgess Shale site near Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park.

“What makes this finding remarkable is that we found hundreds of specimens, including all of the different parts of its body, so we are able to piece back together this organism in pretty remarkable detail,” Moysiuk said.

His supervisor, Jean-Bernard Caron, said it took some time to put all the pieces together.

ALSO READ: 50-million-year-old fossil found in B.C. town makes history

“It was like a jigsaw puzzle or a Lego box, but you don’t have the instructions,” said Caron, who’s a curator at the Royal Ontario Museum and an assistant professor at U of T.

In addition to its large head, the animal has a small body with flaps on the sides.

“It looks a bit ridiculous in some ways,” Caron said.

Researchers believe large claws on the front of its body, which look like rakes, were used to feed on everything from worms to small larvae living between sediment grains in the mud.

Caron said they expect the animal was living at the bottom of the sea.

“They are predators but they are also prey for something larger,” he said. “It’s adding more complexity to the Burgess Shale. It’s a level of predation that we had not encountered before.”

Moysiuk called the Cambroraster Falcatus a “fearsome-looking animal.”

Most animals at the time were smaller than a couple centimetres, but he said the new species was up to 30 centimetres long.

“This is a super exciting finding for us,” Moysiuk said. “Because it’s such an abundant organism, we know it was important in the Burgess Shale community at the time.”

The Marble Canyon fossil site, home to more than a dozen new species, was found by researchers in 2012 as they worked at the nearby Stanley Glacier.

Researchers have said the area and its fossils are furthering the understanding of animal life during the Cambrian Period, when most major groups of animals appear on the fossil record.

The Marble Canyon site is about 40 kilometres south of the original Burgess Shale in Yoho National Park, which was discovered 110 years ago.

Officials with Parks Canada said the areas are magical places for fossil discoveries.

“They are static and they are in the mountains and they are not moving, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t new stories to be told,” said Alex Kolesch, senior adviser for Yoho and Kootenay national parks.

“These fossils are a really neat way to demonstrate what Parks Canada does and what our role is here. By virtue of these sites being in national parks, we protect them and it’s also really important for us to share the stories of national parks.”

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Second snowfall warning issued for Coquihalla Highway

Another 20 cm of snow is expected to fall by early Friday

FVRD emergency plan only ‘partially meeting’ expectations, says auditor

Regional district says they are already working on shortfalls in emergency management

Princeton RCMP take care when burying sex mannequins found in Manning Park

Princeton RCMP recently learned how complicated it can be to dispose of… Continue reading

New hiking trail to be built overlooking Hope

Waterfalls, rocky outcrops featured in new trail near Silver Creek

Free Rein Associates about to embark on poverty reduction plan for Hope

Funding will come from new provincial initiative to reduce poverty across B.C.

VIDEO: Andrew Scheer to resign as Conservative leader

Decision comes after weeks of Conservative infighting following the October election

Canadian airline passengers to be eligible for $1,000 in compensation for delayed flights

Passengers can also receive compensation for overbooking, lost luggage and other inconveniences

Second snowfall warning issued for Coquihalla Highway

Another 20 cm of snow is expected to fall by early Friday

B.C. seniors need better vaccine protection, advocate says

Home support down, day programs up in annual rating

Burnaby man charged with sexual assault after multiple groping incidents

Jorge Benjamin Bernal, 29, is facing four counts of sexual assault

RCMP rescue wounded raven on Vancouver Island highway

Bird expected to make full recovery

Column: Giving at Christmastime can be as rewarding as receiving

‘It wouldn’t be Christmas without lists. Present lists, specifically.’

Be aware of ticks when chopping down Christmas trees

Potential for ticks to transfer to clothing

More rowers come forward with complaints about coach, criticism of UVic

Barney Williams is accused of verbal abuse and harassment

Most Read