Extracted carapace fossil of Cambroraster falcatusis shown in this handout image. Filming Researchers at the Royal Ontario Museum and University of Toronto have uncovered fossils of a large predatory species in 506-million year old rocks in the Canadian Rockies. (Red Trillium Films-Andrew Gregg)

‘Fearsome-looking animal’ fossil discovered in Kootenay National Park

Researchers expect the animal was living at the bottom of the sea

Researchers at the Royal Ontario Museum and University of Toronto have uncovered fossils of a large predatory species in 506 million-year-old rocks in the Canadian Rockies in British Columbia.

The species, described in a study published Tuesday in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is named Cambroraster Falcatus.

“This animal has this really unique looking frontal carapace, or shield-like structure, covering its head,” said Joseph Moysiuk, a PhD student at the University of Toronto and lead author of the study.

“It’s like nothing we had seen before. But we actually nicknamed it in the field: The Spaceship.”

The species, which is the earliest relative of insects, crabs and spiders, was found at the Burgess Shale site near Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park.

“What makes this finding remarkable is that we found hundreds of specimens, including all of the different parts of its body, so we are able to piece back together this organism in pretty remarkable detail,” Moysiuk said.

His supervisor, Jean-Bernard Caron, said it took some time to put all the pieces together.

ALSO READ: 50-million-year-old fossil found in B.C. town makes history

“It was like a jigsaw puzzle or a Lego box, but you don’t have the instructions,” said Caron, who’s a curator at the Royal Ontario Museum and an assistant professor at U of T.

In addition to its large head, the animal has a small body with flaps on the sides.

“It looks a bit ridiculous in some ways,” Caron said.

Researchers believe large claws on the front of its body, which look like rakes, were used to feed on everything from worms to small larvae living between sediment grains in the mud.

Caron said they expect the animal was living at the bottom of the sea.

“They are predators but they are also prey for something larger,” he said. “It’s adding more complexity to the Burgess Shale. It’s a level of predation that we had not encountered before.”

Moysiuk called the Cambroraster Falcatus a “fearsome-looking animal.”

Most animals at the time were smaller than a couple centimetres, but he said the new species was up to 30 centimetres long.

“This is a super exciting finding for us,” Moysiuk said. “Because it’s such an abundant organism, we know it was important in the Burgess Shale community at the time.”

The Marble Canyon fossil site, home to more than a dozen new species, was found by researchers in 2012 as they worked at the nearby Stanley Glacier.

Researchers have said the area and its fossils are furthering the understanding of animal life during the Cambrian Period, when most major groups of animals appear on the fossil record.

The Marble Canyon site is about 40 kilometres south of the original Burgess Shale in Yoho National Park, which was discovered 110 years ago.

Officials with Parks Canada said the areas are magical places for fossil discoveries.

“They are static and they are in the mountains and they are not moving, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t new stories to be told,” said Alex Kolesch, senior adviser for Yoho and Kootenay national parks.

“These fossils are a really neat way to demonstrate what Parks Canada does and what our role is here. By virtue of these sites being in national parks, we protect them and it’s also really important for us to share the stories of national parks.”

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Editorial: Mask wearing: innocuous advice has turned into polarizing war

Somehow, this innocuous recommendation has become a polarizing war for some.

UPDATED: Young deckhands backed out of fatal Arctic Fox II trip just before fishboat departed

Inexperienced twin brothers had ‘gut feeling’ and bailed before going to open ocean

Cowichan’s Dillabaugh checks in from the NHL bubble in Toronto

Flyers’ Duncan-born goalie coach weighs in on hockey restart

37-year-old man missing from Cobble Hill area

He is described as a First Nations man, 5 foot 8 in height

Five new handyDART buses serving Cowichan

Buses to replace older vehicles being removed from the fleet

B.C. records new COVID-19 death, 85 more cases; Horgan calls on celebrity help

This brings the total number of active confirmed cases to 531 across the province

B.C. man who nearly died from COVID-19 reflects on one-month battle

Robert Billyard was in an induced coma to ensure his body would not fight the ventilator to breath

Wedding party bear sprayed at Okanagan campsite irks locals

Latest criminal activity at the Meadows leaves locals frustrated

Paramedics fired for allowing patient to crawl for treatment on Downtown Eastside: court documents

The man spent three days in intensive care and three months recovering in hospital from sepsis

Feds seeking private consultant to design firearm buyback program

The ban covers some 1,500 models and variants of what the government considers assault-style weapons

Face masks for teachers can impact learning on young children, experts say

Face coverings, mandatory in most indoor public places across the province, can help limit the spread of COVID-19

Horvat scores 2 as Vancouver Canucks beat Blues 5-2 in NHL playoff opener

Game 2 in best-of-seven series goes Friday night

Old-growth forest defenders in Campbell River call for B.C. forest minister’s resignation

Protestors outside North Island MLA’s office ask government to stop old-growth logging

Most Read