New fossils of an ancient ocean predator named “Timorebestia” or “terror beasts” have been discovered by researchers from the University of Bristol and other institutions. The fossils date back to the Early Cambrian period over 500 million years ago.
Timorebestia grew over 30cm long, had fins and antennae, and a large jaw structure for feeding. At the time, they were some of the biggest swimming predators around. Previously, scientists thought arthropods were the main predators, but this find shows the ecosystems were more complex.
The researchers found fossilized remains of other arthropods called Isoxys inside Timorebestia’s digestive system, indicating they were part of the food chain. Timorebestia seems to have been a top predator, similar to modern day sharks and seals.
Timorebestia is an early ancestor of today’s arrow worms or chaetognaths which are much smaller ocean predators. The fossils help trace the evolution of jawed predators and the features of ancient aquatic ecosystems.
More fossils were found showing distinct nervous systems that support the evolutionary links between Timorebestia, arrow worms, and other worm-like creatures. The discoverers say this is just the beginning, and they expect to find more unusual fossils that reveal insights into the earliest animal life.