Some of the ancestors and ancient cousins of spiders can be pretty terrifying. I think it is safe to say that today’s arachnids are definitely preferable over those ancient monsters. Researchers have recently discovered that one ancient monster that scientists have known about about for a while is actually an ancient cousin of arachnids like spiders and scorpions.
The Habelia optata lived around 508 million years ago in current British Columbia. It was researchers from the Royal Ontario Museum and the University of Toronto that just made this amazing discovery. This predator was around when the sea was teaming with trilobites, one of Habelia’s main sources of food. If you were a little trilobite at the time, your parents likely told you stories of the Habelia boogie man, as this creature is terrifying enough to give anyone nightmares. This ancient arachnid cousin had not one set of mandibles but five, and each of those pairs of very powerful jaws were filled with sharp teeth specially designed to be able to crush the hard shells of prey such as trilobites.
However, despite its fearsome set of five jaws filled with sharp teeth, the Habelia was only two centimeters in length, meaning it likely had many predators it had to protect itself from as well. Because of this it has some incredible defensive features. These critters are covered from their tail to their head in sharp spines. Scientists had a difficult time figuring out exactly what this creature was when they found fossils of it due to its unusual features and the fact that the creatures had been squashed completely flat when they were fossilized. To answer this question researchers had to work with artists to reconstruct a 3D version of the animal. This allowed them to finally isolate all of its individual features, which is what revealed that it was related to our modern arachnids.
Do you think there are other fossilized creatures that could be placed in the wrong species or animal category?