During a study conducted in Morocco, paleontologists have discovered a fossil of a bizarre arthropod that grew up to a length of 7 ft. According to the research team, the creature used to gather plankton in the same manner as whales.
The animal, which has been named Aegirocassis benmoulae, is believed to be one of the earliest arthropods to have existed on this planet. This makes the creature an ancestor of shrimp, butterflies, and cockroaches.
Aegirocassis benmoulae existed around 480 million years back; it used to live in the shallow sea that once covered a portion of the largest subtropical hot desert Sahara.
According to paleobiologist Peter V Roy of the Yale University, this newly identified arthropod is one of the largest to have ever existed and is much bigger than the ones we see today. Roy was an important member of the team of paleontologist carrying out the Moroccan expedition; he uncovered several specimens of the newly discovered sea creature.
The full description of this weird arthropod got published in the science journal Nature last Wednesday. The paleontologists involved in the process of discovering the fossil of the animal described it as a member of an extinct animal group called anomalocaridid.
The anomalocaridids are known for being the biggest animals to have existed 490 million years back and the arthropod discovered recently in Morocco is the latest addition to this group of large animals.
A strange thing Roy and his team came to know is that in spite of being so large in size Aegirocassis benmoulae was quite a common animal. He, along with Mohamed B. Moula, a fossil collector from Morocco and the man who first came across these huge animals, managed to locate dozens of specimens of this unique sea creature buried underneath the Moroccan desert.
According to Roy, the animals might have gathered for molting or might have had the habit of living in groups. He added that it’s quite fascinating to come across so many fossils of such a unique animal and added that such big population of Aegirocassis benmoulae shows that the plankton system that existed 490 million years back was quite rich and well-developed.