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Jaws of Death: Ancient Monster Worm Identified by Scientists

Feb 28, 2017 09:45 AM EST
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An extinct primordial monster worm has been identified by a team of scientists in Canada.

According to reports, the remains of the species have been stored at the Royal Ontario Museum since the mid-1990s, after Derek Armstrong, a researcher with the Ontario Geological Survey gathered it on Hudson Bay in Ontario, Canada.

In a paper published in Scientific Reports, the team from the University of Bristol, Lund University in Sweden and the Royal Ontario Museum noted that the species has jaws that reached more than 0.4 inches (1 centimeter) in length -- the largest jaws ever recorded in its kind.

Live Science notes that other ancient worms from polychaetes only have jaws that grow only to lengths of about 0.08 inches (2 mm) at most. Given the size of its jaws, it is estimated that its body have reached over one meter. This suggests that polychaete gigantism is already present some 400 million years ago.

In modern times, they are comparable to "Bobbit Worms," which, as reported by Huffington Post, are opportunistic hunters that snatch their preys with their powerful jaws before dragging them back in the sand.

"Gigantism in animals is an alluring and ecologically important trait, usually associated with advantages and competitive dominance," said lead author Mats Eriksson from Lund University, in a statement. "It is, however, a poorly understood phenomenon among marine worms and has never before been demonstrated in a fossil species. The new species demonstrates a unique case of polychaete gigantism in the Palaeozoic, some 400 million years ago."

In an interview with Gizmodo, co-author Luke Parry from the University of Bristol's School of Earth Sciences said how the species thrive during its time is still unclear. However, based on the corals they have discovered alongside the specimen, they are certain that it lived in a warm shallow sea.

The species was named Websteroprion armstrongi. Armstrongi honors Derek Armstrong while Websteroprion is in honor of a Alex Webster, a bass player for a death metal band, Cannibal Corpse.

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