Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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Scientists Unearth Ancient Lobster-Like Creature

Ancient lobster-like predator

(Photo : Jean-Bernard Caron/Royal Ontario Museum) Holotype of Yawunik kootenayi.

Scientists have unearthed a 508 million year-old lobster relative that had appendages equipped with three claws and a terrifying set of teeth.

Yawunik kootenayi, a marine creature with two pairs of eyes and prominent grasping appendages, lived 250 million years before the first dinosaur.

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The recently identified fossil is the first new species to be described from the Marble Canyon site, part of the Canadian Burgess Shale fossil deposit.

"This creature is expanding our perspective on the anatomy and predatory habits of the first arthropods, the group to which spiders and lobsters belong. It has the signature features of an arthropod with its external skeleton, segmented body and jointed appendages, but lacks certain advanced traits present in groups that survived until the present day. We say that it belongs to the 'stem' of arthropods," said Cedric Aria, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto's Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and lead author of the study.

The creature developed long frontal appendages that look like the antennae of modern beetles or shrimps. These appendages were composed of three long claws, two of which bore opposing rows of teeth that helped the animal catch its prey.

The study presents evidence Yawunik was capable of moving its frontal appendages backward and forward, spreading them out during an attack and then retracting them under its body when swimming.

Coupled with the long, sensing whip-like flagella extending from the tip of the claws, this makes the frontal appendages of the animal some of the most versatile and complex in all known arthropods.

Study authors suggest Yawunik was at the top of the food chain and played a vital role in the ancient ecosystem. They named it after the local mythological marine creature "Yawunik" as an homage to the Ktunaxa People who have long inhabited the Kootenay area where the fossils were found.

The new discovery was published in the journal Palaeontology.

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