Hilarious video shows grizzly bear rolling down a hill at Denali National Park

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The video shows a close up of the bear as he stumbles then realizes that rolling down the hill was way more fun. (NPS)

Chances of spotting bears in Alaska’s Denali National Park are not impossible, but pretty rare.  So, what’s the chance you’d see a bear barrel rolling down a hill?

A fun-loving grizzly playing up to the camera was captured on video enjoying himself in Denali National Park.

In the background, tourists can be heard laughing amid the clicks of digital cameras.

The video begins with a close up of the bear as he stumbles then realizes that rolling down the hill was way more fun.

The group of stunned eyewitnesses can be heard laughing, with one saying: “I think he’s drunk.”

“This is hilarious,” another adds.

After the bear realizes he has an audience, he sits up slightly dizzy and starts rolling once more. At one point the camera shot widens to see the tourists at a safe distance from the frolicking bear.

The playful footage has become an Internet hit and has been seen online more 800,000 times since it was uploaded on YouTube Sunday.

There are around 300 to 350 grizzly bears in Denali.  Park rangers stress that visitors should use the designated animal viewing stations. The best places to spot a bear is on the north side of the Alaska Range on open tundra or along river beds from June 11-Sept 8.

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Zoo discovers 150 alligators, crocodiles living in Toronto home

 

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Tank holds rescued reptiles from Toronto home. (Indian River Reptile Zoo)

The founder of a Canadian zoo had a hard time believing owners of a Toronto home were living with 150 large alligators and crocodiles until he discovered it wasn’t just another reptilian urban myth.

Bry Loyst of the Indian River Reptile Zoo in Ontario says the homeowners approached him when the reptiles began to outgrow the enclosures where they were kept, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported.

“They told me the number and I was like, ‘Yeah, right,’” Loyst said. “So I went down and had a look, and sure enough it was true.”

It recently took Loyst and 20 volunteers four days to transport the adult-sized creatures to the zoo in construction tubes. The zoo doubles as an animal sanctuary.

The reptiles ranged in size from 4 feet to 11 feet. Their habitat home violated Toronto ordinances prohibiting ownership of any large reptiles in a city residence.

“They did the right thing by donating them to a better place,” Loyst said. “We don’t question or yell or scream at them or say, ‘You’re stupid for buying an alligator, let alone 150 of them.’”

The crocs and gators are getting a new home in a crocodile building that’s being built and that will open to the public next summer.

Loyst said the highest priority now is ensuring the alligators and crocodiles stay healthy and don’t become too agitated about the recent move or changes to their surroundings.

 

 

Originally available here

National Zoo panda gives birth to twins

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The cubs arrived about five hours apart Saturday. Panda mom Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) gave birth to the first cub at 5:35 p.m. and a second at 10:07 p.m., the zoo said. If the cubs survive, they would be the 17-year-old panda’s third and fourth surviving offspring.

Mei Xiang’s first cub, Tai Shan, was born in 2005 and returned to China in 2010. Her second cub, Bao Bao, turns 2-years-old Sunday and still lives at the zoo.

The new additions mean that for the first time the zoo has five pandas in residence. In addition to Bao Bao, Mei Xiang and the new cubs, the zoo is also home to an adult male panda named Tian Tian. In the past, the zoo has never had more than three pandas at one time.

Zoo director Dennis Kelly said at an evening news conference following the first cub’s birth that he was “so happy, so pleased, so excited.” The zoo’s chief veterinarian Don Neiffer was also asked about the possibility of a second cub. In 2013, when Mei Xiang gave birth to Bao Bao, she also gave birth to a stillborn cub. Asked about the possibility of a second cub this time around, Neiffer said that during an ultrasound earlier this week he did see “two areas that made me excited.”

The zoo says after the second cub was born, keepers removed one of the cubs and moved it to an incubator. The zoo says it will alternately swap the cubs, allowing one time to nurse and spend time with Mei Xiang while the other is bottle fed. The zoo said it could not confirm whether the cub that was removed was the first or second born. It says pandas give birth to twins about 50 percent of the time, but this is only the third time a giant panda living in the United States has given birth to twins.

Keepers will be watching the newest cubs closely. Pink, hairless and blind, newborn cubs weigh three to five ounces and are about the size of a stick of butter.

Kelly, the zoo director, called it a “very fragile time.”

“We’re very excited, but we’re very cautious,” he said before the second cub’s birth, noting that in 2012, Mei Xiang gave birth to a cub that died after just six days. Its lungs hadn’t fully developed.

Still, Neiffer, the zoo’s chief veterinarian, said the first cub had shown “all signs of being healthy and happy.” Keepers have heard it squeal and grunt. The zoo said on Twitter that the second cub also appeared healthy.

Even if the new cubs are physically fit, panda fans shouldn’t expect to see them in person for a while. After Bao Bao was born in 2013, it was about 5 months before she made her public debut. Fans who want to see the newest pandas will have to try to catch a glimpse of them on the zoo’s online panda cameras. Though the zoo’s camera-viewing site can host about 850 viewers at a time, spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson says the site has been overloaded with people trying to watch. Fans can also download a zoo app to view the cameras.

The public also won’t learn immediately whether the cubs are male or female or whether the zoo’s male panda, Tian Tian, is the cub’s father. Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated with sperm from Tian Tian and a panda named Hui Hui from Wolong, China, who was determined to be one of the best genetic matches.

The zoo will use saliva from the cubs’ mouths to determine gender and paternity, said Laurie Thompson, a giant panda biologist at the zoo.

The National Zoo is one of only four zoos nationwide to have pandas, which are on loan from China, and its cubs are the only ones born in the United States this year. Pandas also have a history at the Washington zoo that makes them closely watched.

The zoo’s first pair of pandas, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, were a gift from China following President Richard Nixon’s historic 1972 visit to the country. The pair had five cubs while living at the zoo but none survived.

The zoo’s current pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, the parents of both Bao Bao and Tai Shan, arrived in 2000. The pandas belong to China as do any cubs they have.

The cubs’ birth isn’t the only event being celebrated at the zoo this weekend. For Bao Bao’s second birthday Sunday she will get a cake made out of ice with the number “2” on top. She will stay at the zoo until she is four years old when she will return to China.

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‘Sea monster’ figurehead hauled from the Baltic Sea

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Divers recently retrieved the monster-headed figurehead of a Danish warship known as the “Gribshunden,” or “grip dog,” that sank beneath the waves in 1495 off the coast of Sweden. The ship may be the only preserved warship from the time period (Foto Ingemar Lundgren, Ocean Discovery)

A sea monster that lay hidden beneath the waves for five centuries has finally been recovered from the Baltic Sea.

The “monster” — a ship figurehead that may show a scowling dog or perhaps a fantastical sea dragon with a helpless human clutched in its jaws — was fixed atop the Gribshunden, a vessel that last sailed in 1495.

“I think it’s some kind of fantasy animal — a dragon with lion ears and crocodilelike mouth,” Johan Ronnby, a professor of marine archaeology at Södertörn University in Sweden, who recovered the figurehead, told BBC News.”And there seems to be something in his mouth. There seems to be a person in its mouth, and he’s eating somebody.” [See Images of the “Grip Dog” Ship’s Monstrous Figurehead]

The sunken ship could provide an unprecedented look at how warships were made at that pivotal time in world history.

“What is unique is that there are no other warships from this time in the world,” said Marcus Sandekjer, the director of the Blekinge Museum in Karlskrona, Sweden, where the figurehead is being kept.

The Gribshunden, or the “Grip Dog,” could even provide clues to the construction of the ships that Christopher Columbus used to sail to North America, he added.

The team isn’t quite sure what a “grip dog” is. In Danish, “Gribshunden” is a combination of the words for a griffon — a mythical Greek creature that is part lion, part bird — and a dog or hound.

“It’s an odd name also in Danish,” Sandekjer told Live Science

Either way, the Gribshunden was the flagship of King Hans of Denmark’s naval fleet. In 1495, the king was sailing on the Gribshunden to the southeastern Swedish city of Kalmar, where he planned to negotiate a political union between the Scandinavian countries. But partway through the journey, while King Hans was off the boat visiting the nearby port of Ronneby in what is now Sweden (then Denmark), the Gribshunden caught fire and sank. An eyewitness account from a Danish nobleman who escaped the wreckage describes a terrible conflagration in which “many knights and poor men burned to death,” Sandekjer said.

Divers first discovered the wreck in the 1970s, but scientists identified the ship in 2013, only after two excavations in 2007 and 2011 to analyze the wood. Earlier this week (Aug. 11), divers managed to heave the monstrous figurehead from the frigid waters. It is now sitting in a bath of water at the Blekinge Museum. Researchers hope to restore it and then put it on display at the museum.

The forbidding face of the Gribshunden likely would have struck fear in enemies who encountered it: From nose to end, it spans 11.1 feet. It would have been the terrifying face of an imposing warship that was up to 100 feet long and held 150 seamen.

Such ornate figureheads served several purposes: They helped people in preliterate societies identify a ship at a glance. And in Viking culture, dragons and other monsters carved into figureheads were used to ward off evil spirits that were thought to attack on a hazardous ocean voyage, according to the British Museum. In this case, it’s also possible that the human head wedged in the monster’s jaws could represent the Biblical story of Jonah and the whale (or sea monster), Sandekjer said.

The building of the Gribshunden was an international project. The timbers hailed from northern France and were felled sometime between 1482 and 1483, analysis of the tree rings suggests. The ship itself was likely constructed in Flanders or in the Netherlands, he said.

The Gribshunden is unusual in that it is still in near-pristine condition. Most ocean shipwrecks have been eaten away by sea worms or degraded by the salty water, but the Baltic has less saline waters and no shipworms to ravage the boats, Sandekjer said.

 

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Marine survives bear attack with help from his dog

As a combat veteran, 66-year-old Larry Yepez knows when it’s time to fight. Even if his opponent is a vicious 200-pound black bear.

Yepez, who served in the Marines and was awarded a Purple Heart during his time in Vietnam, found himself in the clutches of the creature outside his California home around 4 a.m. Thursday.

“I could feel the blood running out of me,” Yepez told the Washington Post. “That’s when I decided, ‘I’ve got to fight, man.’”

“If it had been a little kid who got attacked, he’d be dead right now”

– Larry Yepez

Yepez got an assist from an unlikely comrade in arms – his 10-pound Yorkshire Terrier, who, though only a fraction the size of the bear, attacked the beast and distracted it long enough for Larry to break away.

“The bear turned around and swatted at the dog,” Yepez said. “And that gave us just enough time to get back in and slam the door.”

The bear tried charging the door but eventually left Yepez and his Terrier, Benji, alone in their house near Yosemite National Park.

“I’m not a bear hater,” Yepez said. “I believe we live in the bears’ habitat up here in the mountains. But like the game warden says, if it had been a little kid who got attacked, he’d be dead right now.”

Bloodied, Yepez was able to drive himself to a hospital where he was treated for multiple puncture wounds and lacerations to his head, legs, arms, abdomen, hands and feet, according to a statement from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Officers from the department are investigating the incident, but have not yet found the bear. The bear “will be humanely destroyed when found,” according to the statement.

“I realize I’m a lucky human being,” Yepez said.

 

Originally available here

Drones spook bears

 

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A drone flies toward the location of a collared bear in northwestern Minnesota. Researchers found bears’ heart rates spiked when these unmanned aerial vehicles flew overhead. (Jessie Tanner (@jessiectanner))

Bears apparently find UFOs unbearable — airborne robots and other unidentified flying objects can make bear hearts beat four times faster, researchers say.

This finding suggests that greater caution might be necessary with drones flying above wildlife, scientists added.

Airborne drones — also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) — are becoming increasingly popular, with Amazon suggesting they could deliver goods to online shoppers and tech giants such as Google potentially investigating their use to bring wireless Internet connectivity across the planet. Drones are growing more and more valuable to scientists as well, helping them research wildlife, including endangered species, in their natural settings over difficult terrain and from long distances. [8 Totally Cool Uses for Drones]

Animals often appeared to take encounters with these UFOs in stride. For instance, American black bears typically barely seem startled when a UAV comes near, the researchers said.

However, recently scientists in the Antarctic found that robots could stress penguins out, even if the birds gave no outward sign of their distress.

Now, another group of researchers finds that despite the calm demeanor bears may display in the presence of airborne robots, drones make bear heart rates soar, a major sign of stress.

“The magnitude of some of the heart-rate spikes were shocking,”study lead author Mark Ditmer, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Minnesota at St. Paul, told Live Science. “To see heart rates go from 41 beats per minute prior to the unmanned aerial vehicles’ flight to over 160 beats per minute during the flight was far beyond what we expected.”

Ditmer and his colleagues noticed the heart-rate spike while studying bear hibernation. “Bears are able to hibernate for many months with only a little loss of muscle strength despite no food or water,” Ditmer said. “Understanding how they are able to do this may help long-term patient care — human muscle atrophies after being bedridden for just a few weeks — or even space exploration.”

The researchers implanted heart monitors in free-roaming American black bears to better understand how their hearts work. The devices were originally developed by the medical device firm Medtronic in Elizabeth, New Jersey, for use in people with abnormal hearts. To see the effects of humans — or drones — on the bears, the researchers also looked at data from GPS collars on the animals and investigated how bear heart rates changed when near human locales or flying robots.

The collars sent the scientists an email with each bear’s location every 2 minutes while the implanted heart monitors, or “biologgers,” captured every heartbeat. The researchers then programmed a UAV to fly to the bear’s most recent location.

“It was always constantly windy in that area — northwestern Minnesota — so the UAV often was really fighting the wind, which required us to keep the flights rather short, about 5 minutes,” Ditmer said.

The scientists admit their conclusions are based on limited data — “only four bears and 18 UAV flights,” Ditmer said. But they felt they could not wait another year to gather more conclusive data before reporting their discovery “due to the meteoric rise in UAV use, especially for research and conservation,” he said. “It should serve as a cautionary tale, and at least get people who use them thinking about the potential impacts they may have that might not be apparent.”

The scientists did note that bear heart rates recovered very quickly after UAV flights.

“By no means are we advocating against the use of UAVs, especially for research or conservation,” Ditmer said. “However, until we know which species are tolerant of UAVs, at what distance animals react to the presence of UAVs, and whether or not individuals can habituate to their presence, we need to exercise caution when using them around wildlife, especially at close distances.”

The researchers plan to experiment with bears living in captivity with implanted heart monitors to see if they can get used to overhead UAV flight, “and if so, at what time scale that habituation takes place,” Ditmer said.

The scientists detailed their findings online Aug. 13 in the journal Current Biology.

 

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Great white shark mauls seal just yards from swimmers on Cape Cod beach

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A great white shark is seen in this AP photo. (Associated Press)

Two Cape Cod beaches were forced to close Wednesday after witnesses saw an “explosion of water and blood” when a great white shark mauled a seal about 30 yards off the beach.

Beachgoers at Nauset Light in Eastham, Mass., saw the shark attack the seal at around 4 p.m. The seal was then thrown out of the water onto the beach, where it died, witnesses said.

“It was almost like “Jaws,” one witness told WCVB.com.

A one-hour swimming suspension was issued for Nauset Light and Coast Guard beach, due to their proximity to each other. Paige Long, a dispatcher with the Cape Cod National Seashore, says that’s standard protocol.

“We didn’t see the fin of the shark, but we saw the seals booking it the opposite way”

– witness

“All of a sudden the lifeguards were like (yelling) get out of the water get out of the water,” Shelby Carney, who was at the beach, told the station. “We didn’t see the fin of the shark, but we saw the seals booking it the opposite way. All the other seals were gone.”

Seals are a primary food source for great white sharks, which have been spotted in the Cape in increasing numbers over the years. The station reported that officials say there were 68 great white sharks off the coast last summer.

The Boston Globe reported earlier this month that 16 sharks were identified off the shoreline during a four-and-a-half hour search, which one researcher called, “a very bus day for us.”

“This was the biggest day of the season in terms of the number of sharks that were identified,” Cynthia Wigren, president of the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, told the paper. “We even had two sharks that swam by the boat at the same time, one from one direction and one from the other.”

 

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Originally available here

This May Be the Biggest Great White Ever Filmed

DEEP BLUE IS BELIEVED TO BE 20 FEET LONG, 5K POUNDS

Published on www.newser.com

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 13, 2015 9:41 AM CDT

(NEWSER) – Don’t be surprised if this beast appears in your nightmares tonight. Shark expert Mauricio Hoyos Padilla has released footage of a massive, 20-foot-long great white shark that might just be the largest ever caught on camera, reports ABC News. Though Padilla says he first found the shark near Guadalupe Island off the Mexican coast in 2013, it isn’t clear when this video was recorded; an earlier video of the shark appearing to high-five a diver was released in June. Nicknamed “Deep Blue,” the female shark is estimated to weigh 5,000 pounds and was believed to have been pregnant when the footage was taken. It shows Deep Blue approaching a cage of divers before swimming toward a camera—seemingly with a smile on her face.

“A shark of that size is at least 50 years old and that tells me protection and conservation efforts are really working,” says Padilla of nonprofit marine research organization Pelagios-Kakunjá. “Deep Blue has been spared from longlines and the inherent dangers of being in the wild, and somehow she has found her way in the vast ocean.” Though great white sharks often visit Guadalupe Island to feed on seals in November and December, Padilla says they head to shallow waters to give birth. “These areas are close to shore and very vulnerable to several human threats,” he says, per the Washington Post. The video of Deep Blue, who is tagged, has tallied 2.7 million views since it was posted on Facebook on Monday. (This heartwarming video shows a great white rescue.)

This footage shows Deep Blue, perhaps the largest great white shark ever filmed.
(Facebook)

Ancient reptile with ‘ridiculously long neck’ unearthed in Alaska

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The long-necked elasmosaur as imagined by Anchorage-based artist James Havens, who is working with Druckenmiller to realistically interpret ancient life forms. (James Havens, courtesy of UAF)

The fossilized remains of an ancient marine reptile with an extremely long neck and paddlelike appendages were recently uncovered in an unlikely place: the side of a cliff in Alaska.

The bones belong to an elasmosaur, an animal that swam the seas about 75 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period, said Patrick Druckenmiller, earth sciences curator at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. It’s the first time that the skeleton of one of these creatures has been found in the state, he added.

“This is a very unusual group of marine reptiles that belongs to a larger group known as plesiosaurs, Druckenmiller told Live Science. “Elasmosaurs are famous because they have these ridiculously long necks and relatively small skulls.” [Image Gallery: Ancient Monsters of the Sea]

Most of the newly uncovered elasmosaur’s bones are still lodged in a rocky cliff in the Talkeetna Mountains of southern Alaska, so no one has measured the full skeleton yet. But Druckenmiller, who visited the fossil site in June, estimates that the animal was about 25 feet long, with a neck that made up half its body length.

The incredible length of the ancient carnivore’s neck gave rise to an interesting theory in the 1930s, when someone suggested that the mythical Loch Ness monster was really just a plesiosaur (possibly an elasmosaur) that didn’t go extinct with the rest of its species. But Druckenmiller said that theory is a “bunch of bunk,” because there’s no way a plesiosaur could have held its head up out of the water like a swan (which is how “Nessie” commonly appears in popular culture and hoax photographs).

It is true, however, that plesiosaurs can sometimes end up in unusual places. The newly discovered Alaskan elasmosaur was found amid a mountain range that boasts peaks that are nearly 9,000 feet high. That’s a long way from the seafloor, which is where the remains of any elasmosaur would have likely settled after it died. So how did the bones find their way up the mountain?

“The rocks that the skeleton was found in were laid down on the seabed about 70 to 75 million years ago. At that time there was a sea along the southern margin of [what is now] Alaska,” said Druckenmiller, who added that over the course of many millions of years, tectonic activity under that ancient sea caused the seafloor to rise up thousands of feet.

The rocky cliffs of the Talkeetna Mountains boast many fossils that hint at this aquatic past. However, most of the fossils found there belong to invertebrates, not marine vertebrates, Druckenmiller said. The fossilized remains most commonly found in the range belong to ammonites, an extinct group of marine animals that he said look like “overgrown nautilus” (mollusks with hard, spiral shells).

Finding the remains of a vertebrate, especially one as large and intact as the elasmosaur, is a real treat for Druckenmiller, who noted that similar fossils have been found in Canada and in the continental United States, but only in places like Kansas, the Dakotas and Montana, where rocky, barren terrain is better-suited for fossil hunting. (The presence of marine animal fossils in those states has to do with the fact that, millions of years ago, central North America was submerged under a seaway that divided the continent into two landmasses.)

“These fossils are found in classic ‘Badlands’ environments in other parts of the world, with nice outcroppings of rock sticking out everywhere,” Druckenmiller said. “In Alaska, there’s a lot of vegetation, so it’s hard to find good, accessible rock. Where we usually find it is pretty remote, mountainous areas where there’s not a lot of vegetation because of the high elevation and the steep slopes.”

And the vertical slopes of the soaring Talkeetna Mountains make the region a better place than many others in southern Alaska to look for fossils. It’s not the first time an ancient skeleton has been discovered there. In 1994, workers digging a quarry in the Talkeetna range unearthed the partial remains of a plant-eating ornithopod dinosaur (a close relative of duck-billed dinosaurs) that had floated out to sea and finally came to rest on the seabed, which later rose up to form the massive mountains.

That hadrosaur, nicknamed “Lizzie,” is on display at the Museum of the North (where Druckenmiller works) in Fairbanks, Alaska. It’s not yet clear where the elasmosaur skeleton will end up once it’s completely unearthed, but Druckenmiller said he’s glad the ancient remains are close enough to visit.

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Armored spiky worm had 30 legs, will haunt your nightmares

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An illustration showing the many legs and spikes covering the early Cambrian creature, Collinsium ciliosum. (Javier Ortega-Hernández)

A spiky, wormlike creature with 30 legs — 18 clawed rear legs and 12 featherlike front legs that likely helped it filter food from the water — once lived in the ancient oceans of the early Cambrian period, about 518 million years ago, a new study finds.

The critter is one of the first known animals on Earth to develop protective armor and to sport specialized limbs that likely helped it catch food, the researchers said. This newfound species lived during the Cambrian explosion, a time of rapid evolutionary development, they said.

“It’s a bit of a large animal for this time period,” said one of the study’s lead researchers, Javier Ortega-Hernández, a research fellow in paleobiology at the University of Cambridge. “The largest specimen is just under 10 centimeters [4 inches], which, for a wormy thing, is quite mighty.” [See Images of the Spiky Worm & Other Cambrian Creatures]

The creature likely used its rear clawed legs to anchor to sponges or other penetrable surfaces, and waved its feathery front limbs to and fro in the current to catch nutrients in the water, Ortega-Hernández said. This technique is still used by modern animals, such as bamboo shrimp, that capture passing meals with their fanlike forearms.

But, because the Cambrian critters were “soft and squishy,” it’s likely they waved their limbs in a gentle motion, Ortega-Hernández told Live Science. “I don’t imagine they would have quick muscle control.”

A squishy creature that didn’t move quickly needed a steadfast defense strategy, and that’s likely why it had so many spikes, he said. Other Cambrian wormlike creatures, such as the bizarre Hallucigenia, also sported spines.

Hallucigenia has two sets of spines per leg,” Ortega-Hernández said. “This one has up to five, which means it was a much more heavily armored creature.”

Collins’ monster

Researchers have dubbed the new creature Collinsium ciliosum, or Hairy Collins’ Monster, named after Desmond Collins, a paleontologist who discovered a fossil of a similar Cambrian wormlike creature in Canada in the 1980s. Since then, researchers have found five species of Collins’ Monster (in the family Luolishania), including one from Australia.

But, unlike earlier fossils, the newfound specimens offer researchers a spectacular view of the prehistoric creature. One fossil displays much ofCollinsium ciliosum’s body, including its digestive tract and even the delicate, featherlike structures on its front limbs. Based on the fossils, when it was alive, the worm likely didn’t have any eyes or teeth, Ortega-Hernández said.

Over the past three years, scientists at Yunnan University in China and the University of Cambridge have uncovered and studied 29 C. ciliosum fossils from the early Cambrian Xiaoshiba biota, adeposit in southern China that contains a rich collection of fossilized Cambrian creatures, he said.

An analysis of C. ciliosum’s anatomy indicates it’s a distant ancestor of modern-day velvet worms, also known as onychophorans — a small group (just 180 species) of squishy worms that live in tropical forests, shoot slime at their prey and resemble legged worms.

Interestingly, the Collins’ Monsters were likely a more diverse group that “came in a surprising variety of bizarre shapes and sizes” than today’s onychophorans, Ortega-Hernández said in a statement.

This isn’t the first time that an ancestral group has displayed more diversity than its modern-day relatives. Sea lilies (crinoids) and lamp shells (brachiopods) also follow this trend. But Collins’ Monsters are the first example of this evolutionary pattern playing out in a mostly soft-bodied group, the researchers said. [See Images of Another Bizarre Cambrian Creature]

The study is “a superb description based on absolutely exquisite fossils,” said Greg Edgecombe, a researcher of arthropod evolution at the Natural History Museum in London, who was not involved in the new study.

The new finding drives home that Cambrian wormlike animals such asHallucigenia and the new Collinsium are the ancestors of Onychophora, Edgecombe said.

“That means they are more closely related to Onychophora than to any other living groups (such as arthropods or tardigrades),” Edgecombe told Live Science in an email. “Rather than floating around on the tree of life without an exact home,” these creatures can be pinpointed to a living group, Edgecombe said.

The findings were published online June 29 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 

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