The Burgess Shale Formation in the Canadian Rockies is one of the most famous fossil locations in the world. After examining exceptionally preserved specimens from the formation, researchers from Canada and California have found a new arthropod species that is 508 million year old. The new species, Yawunik kootenayi, is described in the journal Palaeontology.
Yawunik kootenayi was a leanchoiliid predator that had a 12-segmented trunk, a four-segmented head, four eyes, and frontal appendages with teeth that the researchers believe were used to help it grasp its prey.
“Yawunik illustrates unique attributes in the early evolution of the most successful group of animals on Earth — the arthropods,” said lead author Cédric Aria. “It shows that the combination of functions on a single, frontal-most appendage was a type of strategy selected for before the grasping and sensory roles were ensured by different head limbs.”
Yawunik kootenayi was named after the Ktunaxa First Nation, whose people live in the area where it was found. Yawunik is derived from Yawu?nik’ — a gigantic sea monster that is central to the creation story of the Ktunaxa people. The specific epithet, kootenayi, is named after the Kootenay National Park where the Ktunaxa live.
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