A newly discovered species of a prehistoric worm is closely related to leeches and earthworms except for its huge jaws, according to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports.
This new species, dubbed Websteroprion armstrongi, was discovery during an analysis of specimens gathered by Canadian researcher Derek Armstrong from the remote Hudson Bay basin area in Ontario in 1994. The specimens, which were part of 400 million years old rocks, remained stored in the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM).
W. armstrongi belonged to the Eunicida family, and measured 1-2 meters in length. It would burrow under the residue of the ocean floor, waiting for some unsuspecting prey. While its jaw structure was just 1cm in length, it is the longest jaw ever discovered by scientists for the species.
Sebastion Kvist, ROM’s curator of invertebrates, said, “It’s a very long and slender worm. So, a centimetre is actually quite big for jaws. Normally, the jaws that they find in bedrock are only a couple of millimeters.”
The jaws of the ancient worm would spread out perpendicular to the body and then abruptly snap shut, pulling the prey down into the burrow.
The specimen in question is believed to be the oldest example of the species found thus far. Scientists say the discovery of the species is significant for understanding Earth’s early history.