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Science

Fossil-hunters think they have found the lair of a giant, predatory, prehistoric worm – CNN

Paleontologists from Nationwide Taiwan College consider the 6.5-foot-long burrow was as soon as residence to a worm-like predator that will floor from the seabed to ambush sea creatures and drag them, alive, into its lair.

Consultants working in northeastern Taiwan reconstructed massive, L-shaped burrows courting again to as much as 23 million years in the past from layers of seafloor utilizing hint fossils — geological options, like observe marks, burrows and plant root cavities discovered preserved in rocks, which specialists use to attract conclusions on the conduct of historical creatures.

Utilizing 319 specimens, specialists reconstructed a hint fossil of a dugout — dubbed Pennichnus formosae — which was 6.5-feet lengthy and round an inch in diameter, and say morphological proof signifies that the tunnels have been residence to large marine worms, just like the modern-day bobbit worm.

The bobbit worm, or sand striker (Eunice aphroditois), is an aquatic predatory bristle worm that ranges from four inches to 10 toes in size and lives in burrows it creates within the ocean flooring. The bobbit worm takes its title from the Lorena and John Wayne Bobbitt case, during which Lorena minimize off her husband John Wayne’s penis with a kitchen knife.

Dwelling primarily within the Pacific Ocean, bobbit worms cover in lengthy, slim burrows within the seafloor and propel upward to seize unsuspecting fish, massive molluscs and different worms, earlier than dragging them, nonetheless alive, again to their dens.

Within the examine, revealed within the journal Scientific Reports, the report authors notice that the retreat of an historical worm and prey into the sediment may have precipitated the “feather-like” constructions preserved in Pennichnus formosae.
Pictured clockwise from top left:
upper part of Pennichnus burrow; a bobbit worm (photo courtesy of Chutinun Mora); a bobbit worm burrow; plan view of upper part of Pennichnus burrow; vertical section of lower part of Pennichnus burrow. Pictured clockwise from top left:
upper part of Pennichnus burrow; a bobbit worm (photo courtesy of Chutinun Mora); a bobbit worm burrow; plan view of upper part of Pennichnus burrow; vertical section of lower part of Pennichnus burrow.

They recognized a excessive focus of iron on the prime part of the burrow, and consider the worm may have secreted mucus to bolster the burrow wall.

“We hypothesize that about 20 million years in the past, on the southeastern border of the Eurasian continent, historical Bobbit worms colonized the seafloor ready in ambush for a passing meal,” the report authors wrote.

“When prey got here near a worm, it exploded out from its burrow, grabbing and dragging the prey down into the sediment. Beneath the seafloor, the determined prey floundered to flee, resulting in additional disturbance of the sediment across the burrow opening,” they described.

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