Welcome to the world of ancient, eldritch creatures that will haunt your nightmares!
February 25, 2007 4:51 PM   Subscribe

Welcome to the world of giant Cambrian predators! The anomalocaris is one of the ancient creatures found fossilized in the Burgess Shale in British Columbia, a particularly rich trove of fossils from the Cambrian period (543 to 490 million years ago), in which one finds not only the hard parts of animals, but also the soft, squishy bits. Some of the finds were so weird, that they got names like hallucigenia and odontogriphus ("toothed riddle"). Other sites for finding fossils of equal quality from that era are Chengjiang in China and the House Range in Utah.
posted by Kattullus (18 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, computer animation has come a long way since Stephen Jay Gould's Wonderful Life. This is cool, thanks.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 5:03 PM on February 25, 2007

Thanks! Cool stuff. Stephen Jay Gould's Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History is a terrific read, as well.
posted by trip and a half at 5:03 PM on February 25, 2007

Dude, I'm right in the middle of rendez-vous 26...don't spoil it for me!
posted by furtive at 5:16 PM on February 25, 2007

In related news, that new british show Primeval is really quite good.
posted by nightchrome at 5:25 PM on February 25, 2007

Hallucigenia was my favorite animal as a little kid. Burgess Shale beasties are so cool! Thanks for the links.
posted by ubersturm at 5:30 PM on February 25, 2007

I'm just commenting in this post to let you MeFites know that Kattullus does a really excellent hallucengenia impersonation. You should ask him about it at a meetup sometime.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:39 PM on February 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

Meanwhile, in the present: Strange New Creatures Found in Antarctica
posted by homunculus at 6:33 PM on February 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wait, kattullus is a he? I'm so confused.

Cool post and I also love the strange new Antarcticans!
posted by serazin at 6:42 PM on February 25, 2007

They're so cute that I would get devoured by scaled-up ones for sure.

"Awww ... look at this guy! Hey you!"
and then
posted by redteam at 7:32 PM on February 25, 2007

Good old trilobites got pretty big, too. Imagine one or more Isotelus rex scuttling across the beach at low tide.
posted by cenoxo at 8:19 PM on February 25, 2007

Ooooh neato. I am super lucky and get to work on a Middle Cambrian formation with Burgess Shale type preservation for my masters thesis. I read that Butterfield article a couple months ago and Bobby Gains who was referenced in that last link just brought me rocks to look at a couple weeks ago!

Its great to see a fun collection of paleo links on the blue. Thanks for posting this.
posted by DanielDManiel at 8:27 PM on February 25, 2007

Thanks for clearing out the dinos and getting me down to the Cambrian Big Bang.
posted by wallstreet1929 at 8:29 PM on February 25, 2007

I love how there's a phylum named "Problematica".

In view of cenoxo's horrifying link to 70cm trilobites, I wonder if anyone has articluated a general theory that all new things become very very large shortly after their creation/development, before scaling back to a more manageable size. PErhaps some relationship between size and number (better to have a million 1-inch long roaches than 10000, 10-inch long roaches). IT seems like shortly after life appeared, gigantic life appeared everywhere and with everything. Gigantic ferns, gigantic dragonflies, gigantic fish, dinosaurs, etc.

I've noticed this 'whaling' thing, for lack of a better term, happens with man-made objects too. Cars started out larger than they are now (compare the cars of the 30s with now) , electronics, furniture,etc. Even books. It's as if they are really huge so that the design deficiencies become more readily apparent, but as the design evolves (or the horrifying insect-thing evolves), the thing can be made smaller and closer to it's optimum size.

Anyway, thanks kattullus for the nightmares.

seriously though, good post - please no one follow it up with a "beasties of the deep" post. One more vampyroteuthis infernalis and I'm devoting my life to filling the oceans with benzene.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:57 PM on February 25, 2007

Looking at cenoxo's link, I'm most surprised by how advanced umbrella technology was in the Cambrian.
posted by Abiezer at 9:53 PM on February 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Opabinia has always been my fave.

Have these beasties shown up in monster movies? Well, one has: Ottoia, in Deep Rising. A few liberties were taken with the animal's form.
posted by kurumi at 10:10 PM on February 25, 2007

pastabagel said: IT seems like shortly after life appeared, gigantic life appeared everywhere and with everything. Gigantic ferns, gigantic dragonflies, gigantic fish, dinosaurs, etc.

More oxygen, perhaps? A denser atmosphere and/or stronger magnetic field for more protection against solar/cosmic radiation? Higher nutrition from plants and prey growing under the same conditions?

Maybe it's just a case of the biggest and baddest:
Q. Where does a 700 mm trilobite sit?
A. Anywhere a 2,590 mm ammonite tells it to.
posted by cenoxo at 11:05 PM on February 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

Great post.
posted by brundlefly at 1:44 AM on February 26, 2007

I love the Burgess Shale. Seeing some of the fossils was one of the highlights to my trip to Toronto last year. I didn't know the museum had them and was mighty pleased to stumble upon them. Fan girls sqeeing doesn't work so well in the museum so I had to muffle it, but that was still my first reaction.

So yeah, great post.
posted by shelleycat at 2:58 PM on February 26, 2007

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