Paleontologists from the University of Toronto and the Royal Ontario Museum have found the fossil of a 508-million-year-old sea-dwelling species.
The new discovery will shed light on the origin of mandibulates, which is the most diverse and abundant group of creatures to inhabit Earth.
Creatures such as, ants, crayfish, flies, and centipedes belong to the mandibulates division. The new arthopod has been named Tokummia katalepsis and despite the passage of time, it has been found well-persevered and in a fossilized state.
"Before now we've had only sparse hints at what the first arthropods with mandibles could have looked like, and no idea of what could have been the other key characteristics that triggered the unrivaled diversification of that group," the study's lead author Cédric Aria shared.
508-Million-Year-Old Sea Creature From The Cambrian Explosion
Paleontologists concluded that the 508-million-year-old sea creature was an inhabitant of the tropical sea and at the time, was one of the largest Cambrian predators to swim the waters.
The fossilized remains of the creature came from some sedimentary rocks located near Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park, British Columbia. The rocks were dated and revealed that they were 508-million-years old.
In total, the researchers discovered 21 fossil specimens of the 508-million-year-old sea creature, out of which the first was discovered back in 2012.
The name Tokummia katalepsis was given in honor of the Tokumm Creek, which flows along the northern part of the Canyon. The species' name katalepsis is derived from Greek and means "seizing" in English.
Tokummia Katalepsis: Physical Traits
Aria shared that the pincers of the 508-million-year-old sea creature were delicate, yet large and featured a complex anatomical construction. The paleontologists compared the pincers to modern-day can openers.
Out of the two major claws, one had a few terminal teeth and the other one curved toward the teeth. Researchers found that the body of the ancient sea creature was composed of more than 50 small segments. These divisions were enclosed within a two-piece broad shell-like structure called bivalved carapace.
The subdivided limb bases of the Tokummia were found to have tiny projections dubbed endites. These projections are being considered as important innovations, which led to the evolution of legs in mandibulates.
Apart from these characteristics, paleontologists claim that the segmented body of the Tokummia is similar to that of myriapods, group of creatures like millipedes and centipedes.
Many paleontologists feel that the finding is of great importance and will throw light on the evolution of arthropods.
"Finding mandibles is a key finding for understanding the evolution of myriapods, crustaceans and insects," Jakob Vinther, a paleontologist with the University of Bristol in England commented. Vinther is not a part of the new study.
The paper has been published in journal Nature on Wednesday, April 26.