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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Warm ‘blob’ could be behind mass starvation of North Pacific seabirds: Study

Unprecedented death toll raises red flag for North American marine ecosystems

Saanich Police ask for help locating missing high-risk youth

Robyn Coker-Steel has not been in contact with anyone from her home since Dec. 27

Victoria’s reconciliation dialogue on newcomers, Indigenous peoples takes place Monday

The third of six discussions on reconciliation will take place at the Crystal Garden

VIDEO: Soldiers trade rifles for snow shovels to help dig out St. John’s

A state of emergency is set to extend into a fifth day

Power lines cut as thieves strike Vancouver Island veterinary hospital

‘Thankfully there weren’t any animals or staff in the clinic when this happened’

ICBC to bring in ranking system for collision, glass repair shops

Change comes after the much-maligned auto insurer has faced criticism for sky-high premiums

Surrey’s ‘Pink Palace’ being used for Stephen King horror shoot

New web series based on King’s The Stand novel

‘It was just so fast’: B.C. teen recalls 150-metre fall down Oregon mountain

Surrey’s Gurbaz Singh broke his leg on Mount Hood on Dec. 30

Vancouver Island Pride weekend returns to Mount Washington Alpine Resort

Building on the success of last year’s family-friendly pride festival on Vancouver… Continue reading

Scarlett Point lighthouse keeper wins a million bucks playing the lottery

“I usually just get a quick pick, so I didn’t expect to win a big prize”

B.C. woman crowned the fastest female marathon runner in Canadian history

Malindi Elmore ran an incredible 2:24:50 at the Houston Marathon

Alberta bulldog breeder ordered to refund B.C. buyer over puppy’s behaviour

Tribunal ruled a verbal agreement to send a new dog superseded the written contract

Most Read