Thursday, November 10, 2011

66-leg predator roamed ancient B.C. sea floor: Canada

Tracks left in a B.C. sea floor half a billion years ago have been linked to a bizarre ancient predator with 66 legs.

It is very rare for fossil tracks to be preserved on the sea floor, and it's even rarer to be able to identify them, said Nicholas Minter, the lead author of the study published Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The footprints have given Canadian scientists the rare opportunity to indirectly observe the behaviour of a long-extinct animal known as Tegopelte gigas, which is distantly related to horseshoe crabs and millipedes.

"It's very exciting. It's like a detective story in some ways," said Jean-Bernard Caron, a curator at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto who first discovered the tracks in B.C.'s Yoho National Park in 2000.

"It really adds to our record of early life. We never found [evidence of the] activity of these animals in that way before." more