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Fossils depict massive ‘terror worms’ that were almost 12 inches long

Published Jan 7th, 2024 12:06PM EST
Aerial view of the ocean wave
Image: tawatchai1990 / Adobe

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A group of fossils found in Northern Greenland have painted quite a terrifying picture. If the fossils are accurate, then it is likely that a group of “terror worms” once roamed our world’s oceans almost 518 million years ago. This ancient dynasty of predators is one that scientists didn’t know even existed, and they’ve been named Timorebestia, or “terror beasts.”

These ancient predators could grow up to 12 inches long, the researchers say in their new study. “We have previously known that primitive arthropods were the dominant predators during the Cambrian, such as the bizarre-looking anomalocaridids,” Dr. Jakob Vinther, a senior author on the study, explained (via PopSci).

The Timorebestia, or terror worms as I like to think of them, were much smaller and more of a relative of living arrow worms, Vinther says. The ancient ocean ecosystems were likely fairly complex, too, and there were several tiers of predators, which the Timorebestia would have fit into.

greenland landscape
The tundra and frost of Greenland may hide even more secrets about ancient life. Image source: Paul / Adobe

The fossils of these terror worms were so well preserved, too, that the researchers were able to open them up and study the remains of their muscle anatomy, nervous systems, and even their digestive systems. It’s an unprecedented find that teaches us more about a group of creatures that we’d never discovered than most discoveries of this type allow for.

Despite only getting up to 12 inches long, the researchers say that these worms were likely one of the predominant ocean predators at the time, feeding on common arthropods like Isoxys. These fossils are also helping scientists learn more about how jawed predators evolved and where they came from. Timorebestia had a jaw in its head, which allowed it to catch its prey. However, modern arrow worms rely on bristles on their head.

The team collected quite a wide variety of organisms during their expedition, and they’ll continue to study the remains of these terror worms to learn more about them and the ecosystem that they helped rule so many years ago. The oceans continue to be a mesmerizing place to explore, and we continue to discover new species like blue goo that we’ve never seen before.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.

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