Scientists have discovered a prickly creature that lived over 500 million years ago, the ancient Hairy Collins Monster, or Collinsium ciliosum by its full name.
The fabulous creature was unearthed in the Yunnan Province in China by a team of scientists from Cambridge University lead by paleobiologist Javier Ortega-Hernández. They discovered a series of fossils, and one of them included the little hairy Collins monster, which is an ancestor of the velvet worm that lived in ancient Chinese seas.
Collinsium ciliosum was described as being 8.5-10 centimeters long (about 4 inches). It had a segmented body that included 15 units, each of which had its own pair of limbs. While its fore legs, the first six pairs of legs were fine structures coated with hairy-like structures, its hind legs, the next 9 pairs of legs, were armed with retractable claws.
This display of the legs had a very important role in the feeding process of the hairy Collins monster. It would use its hind legs to cling to stationary structures, such as sea sponges or even rocks and it would use its claws to secure its location.
Then, after fixing itself onto a safe platform, it would extend its fore limbs so that it could filter the water for food, as the it passed through its hair-like elements that functioned like a sieve, that would retain the ancient worm’s food.
However, the main reason why Collinsium ciliosum was a stationary creature was in fact not related to its feeding pattern. It seems that its claw-coated hind legs were rather unsuitable for walking the sandy sea floor and this is why it only traveled very short distances in search of a structure that it could hold on to.
But there was one problem in this scenario. If the Collinsium ciliosum was clinging to rocks and sponges most of the time, it was pretty easy prey for a wide range of much larger ancient monsters. Well, the little hairy Collins monster got its name for a reason. In order to keep predators at a sizable distance, it developed as many as 72 thorny structures along its dorsal side that constituted its spiry armor.
The paleobiologists have concluded that these structures were produced by the minerals in their bodies. It was particularly interesting that while the entire body of the Collinsium ciliosum was found in a flat form in the fossil, its spikes were still as three-dimensional as ever.
“Collinsium is definitely an odd-looking animal, and if one were to bump into one of these during a snorkeling or diving trip nowadays it would be quite shocking,”said Javier Ortega-Hernández.
The findings of the paleontology team were published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers were proud to present this amazing creature that they have discovered. It was named after Desmond Collins, a renowned Canadian paleontologist who first came close to the discovery of such a creature decades ago.
All in all, the thorny monster is a very interesting creature and Yunnan University paleontologist Xi-Guang Zhang is confident that people will look past its spiky armor and regard it as the “handsome beast” that it is.
Image Source: sci-news