Really bizarre monsters lived on Earth during the Cambrian Period. Stranger than many sci-fi aliens, in fact.

Discovered in 1909, in Canada's Rocky Mountains (Yoho National Park), the Burgess Shale contains tens of thousands of well-preserved fossils, some so bizarre, that they have no modern equivalent, leaving scientists guessing about how they were related to the rest of the animal world. The animals in the shale lived on or near the seabed and were victims of underwater avalanches, which trapped them almost instantly in fine-grained mud. Because the mud was soft and contained very little oxygen, it preserved its victims remarkably well.

The Anomalocaris, or the "Unusual Shrimp", depicted on the images above, (source: The Anomalocaris Homepage) was over one meter long. It swam by rippling flaps along its sides, and it attacked its prey with a pair of fearsome mouthparts that looked like legs. However, its real mouth was disk-shaped and had an entirely science-fictional ring of teeth, used to crush hard-bodied prey. (see image below)

Ottoia was a soft-bodied burrowing worm with a spike-tipped proboscis that could be extended like a trunk. When the trunk made contact with anything edible, it was swallowed whole.
Stranger still is a mystery animal, called Opabinia (see image below). It had five eyes, a body divided into segments and a bizarre claw-tipped snout like a vacuum cleaner...

and Wiwaxia was like an armored cushion that cruised across the seabed:

But strangest of all was a totally whacked-out creature, appropriately called Hallucigenia.The original fossil showed what seemed to be two rows of spiny legs and a set of short tentacles attached to a wormlike body without an obvious head. This Hieronymous Bosch nightmare originally has been reconstructed as walking on its spines and its soft tentacles waiving above it. This is how the mysterious monster appeared in publications at the time:

However, since then further fossils have shown that researchers had mistakenly put the animal upside down. Hallucigenia did walk on sort-of legs, after all.

UPDATE: November 29, 2006

Something strangely resembling the Anomalocaris was caught recently off the southern coast of Australia. Check out this link for the photo and discussion of what it could possibly be!..

Permanent Link...Digg!


Visual Caffeine #8
Visual Caffeine, Issue 8

A thrilling blend of art, myths and technology

Visual Caffeine #7
Visual Caffeine, Issue 7

A thrilling blend of art, myths and technology

Art Deco
Imperial Dreams: Art Deco Update

Wings, Gears, & Glamorous Ladies

1970s SciFi
DRB Pics-of-the-Day

Grand Space Adventure 1970s Art

"Dark Roasted Blend" - All Kinds of Weird and Wonderful Things, Discovered Daily!"

DRB is a top-ranked and respected source for the best in art, travel and fascinating technology, with a highly eclectic presentation. Our in-depth articles in many categories make DRB a valued online magazine, bringing you quality info and entertainment every time you visit the site - About DRB

Connect with us and become part of DRB on Facebook and Twitter.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Truly weird stuff- however, if you think about it, do coral reef creatures which are alive today look any less weird? And since we haven't done much undersea exploration, who knows what sort of bizarre beasts lurk in the darkness of the deep still?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pretty interesting, those Hallucigenia remind me of sea urchins. Nice link.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you mean the Wiwaxia remind you of sea urchins. The Hallucigenia is below that, and walked on its legs ;)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ooops! You're right. Hehe.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Five eyes and a vacuum cleaner snout? Useful for cleaning under the sofa.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

These creatures are so cool...
However, Wiwaxia is nowadays considered an early polyplacophoran; Hallucigenia is related to present-day velvet worms and tardigrades; the sea scorpion is a pretty direct ancestor to todays land-living scorpions; and the reconstruction of Wiwaxia and Anomalocaris is a bit wrong - it is today known that they had biramous branching legs, and were early arthropods.

These are still wondrous creatures, just not quite as enigmatic as this blog (and Gould's book "Wonderful Life") suggests.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Don't miss: The Ultimate Guide to NEW SF&F Writers!
Fiction Reviews: Classic Cyberpunk: Extreme Fiction
Short Fiction Reviews: Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness" (with pics)
New Fiction Reviews: The Surreal Office


Abandoned, Dieselpunk
DRB Pic-of-the-Day

Abandoned: Streamlined Three-wheeler

Visual Caffeine #6
Visual Caffeine, Issue 6

A thrilling blend of art, myths and technology

Visual Caffeine #5
Visual Caffeine, Issue 5

A thrilling blend of art, myths and technology

Hellish Weather on Other Planets

Wild, Untamed, and Uncut

Medieval Suits of Armor

Metal Body Suits vs. Weapons of Medieval Destruction

World's Strangest Theme Parks

Amusement to the (twisted) extremes!

Enchanting Victorian Fairy Tale Art

"Then world behind and home ahead..."

Adorable Pedal Cars

Collectable Pedal Vehicles Showcase

Japanese Arcades: Gundam Pods & Other Guilty Pleasures

These machines have gone up to the next level

Modernist Tallinn Architecture

Delicious blend of old and new!

Early Supercomputers: A Visual Overview

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons"

Futuristic Concept Cars of the 1970-80s

French, Italian & Japanese rare beauties

Epic 1970s French Space Comic Art

DRB Time-Slice: Valérian and Laureline

The Trees Are Escaping! The Abandoned Prison in French Guiana

"Great Escape" from the Devil's Island

(with previews, fast loading):


Link Lattes

Feel-Good & Biscotti Issues

Feel-Good! | airplanes | animals | architecture | art | auto | boats | books | cool ads | famous | futurism | food
gadgets | health | japan | internet | link latte | military | music | nature | photo | russia | steampunk
sci-fi & fantasy | signs | space | technology | trains | travel | vintage | weird | abandoned