Larger than life

Scientists discover new 500 million-year-old ‘giant’ of the seas

The Titanokorys gainesi may have been only around half a meter in length — but its size dwarfed most other ocean life at the time

Reconstruction of Titanokorys gainesi in a frontal view. (Lars Fields/Royal Ontario Museum)
Reconstruction of Titanokorys gainesi in a frontal view. (Lars Fields/Royal Ontario Museum)

Researchers in Canada have discovered the remains of a new primitive arthropod species that lived some 500 million years ago and which was a giant compared to most other ocean life at the time.

The newly discovered Titanokorys gainesi reached around half a meter (1.6 feet) in length, according to the Royal Ontario Museum paleontologists.

Most sea creatures half a billion years ago did not grow larger than a human’s pinky.

Fossils of Titanokorys were found in the Kootenay National Park, located in the Canadian Rockies.

The ancient creature had multifaceted eyes like most insects and arthropods, a tooth-lined mouth shaped like a pineapple slice, a pair of claws, and a body with a number of flaps used for swimming.

The Titanokorys also had a large head carapace, similar to the shell of a crab or turtle, according to the researchers.

The fossil of the Titanokorys. (Jean-Bernard Caron/Royal Ontario Museum)

“The sheer size of this animal is absolutely mind-boggling. This is one of the biggest animals from the Cambrian period ever found,” one of the study’s authors, Jean-Bernard Caron, said in a statement.

The newly discovered creature is part of a group of primitive arthropods called the radiodonts.

“Titanokorys is part of a subgroup of radiodonts, called hurdiids, characterized by an incredibly long head covered by a three-part carapace that took on myriad shapes,” Joe Moysiuk, the study’s co-author said.

“The head is so long relative to the body that these animals are really little more than swimming heads,” Moysiuk added.

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