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2k11 Outhouse People's Champion

Postby sdsichero » Tue Feb 08, 2011 12:20 pm

Crab wars...

A warmer Antarctica makes a hospitable home for these crabs, endangering an entire ecosystem that has no defenses against them.
By Eric Niiler
Tue Feb 8, 2011 07:00 AM ET

• Shell-crushing king crab are expanding their kingdoms into the Antarctic peninsula.
• Creatures living there for tens of millions of years have no defenses against these crustaceans.
• Warmer waters are facilitating the crabs' advancement.

McMURDO STATION, Antarctica -- Warming waters along the Antarctic peninsula have opened the door to shell-crushing king crabs that threaten a unique ecosystem on the seafloor, according to new research by a U.S.-Sweden team of marine researchers.

On a two-month voyage of the Swedish icebreaker Oden and U.S. research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer, marine biologists collected digital images of hundreds of crabs moving closer to the shallow coastal waters that have been protected from predators with pincers for more than 40 million years. They are the same kind of deep-water crabs with big red claws that you might find at the seafood counter.

"Along the western Antarctica peninsula we have found large populations over like 30 miles of transects. It was quite impressive," said Sven Thatje, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Southampton in England and chief scientist on the cruise.

Finding crabs on the bottom of the ocean isn't that big a deal. But here in Antarctica, crabs haven't lived in coastal waters for the past 40 million years. Until now, it's been too cold.

Bottom-dwelling creatures like mussels, brittle stars and sea urchins have not developed any defenses. They have thinner shells, for example. For the same reason, filter feeders, like clams and worms, burrow underground in most regions. The lack of predators has led to a thick canopy of sorts, much like a submarine jungle comprised of flowery feather stars, tube worms and squirming sea spiders.

During an interview on board the Oden just after it docked at the main U.S. base in Antarctica, Thatje described how the crabs are moving closer to an ecosystem with no defenses.

"The Antarctic shelf communities are quite unique," Thatje said. "This is the result of tens of millions of years of evolution in isolation."

To explore this underwater world, Thatje and his team of U.S. and Swedish scientists towed an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) that scanned the seafloor with a digital camera. Along the way, they encountered thick packs of ice, rough seas and lots of feeding whales.

Even though Thatje predicted the crab invasion several years ago in a research paper, he was surprised at seeing so many so quickly.

"The pace of changes that we are observing here in the Antarctic, which is the remotest continent on this planet, is quite frightening," he said.

What's happened is that the waters around the Antarctic peninsula have begun to get warmer. The air temperature has jumped 6 degrees Celsius (10.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since the 1950s, while the average ocean temperature has increased by 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) over the same time.

That change in water temperature has lowered a physiological barrier that has kept the crabs in check. Crabs are unable to process magnesium in their blood below a certain temperature, and the result is a narcotic effect on the crabs' movement. Magnesium is a mineral that they absorb from the surrounding sea water. Scientists say that barrier may soon fall, as global climate change continues to impact wildlife at the polar regions.

The crab research team will spend the next few months analyzing 120,000 images taken of the seafloor by the AUV, which was designed and operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. They want to know whether the crabs will invade and leave, or permanently colonize the shallow areas. Will their presence destroy the existing community or simply alter it?

Previous cruises had only spotted one or two crabs, but now scientists are seeing entire populations, according to Rich Aronson, lead investigator in the crab project and a professor of biology at the Florida Institute of Technology. The crabs are moving from the deep ocean, up the continental slope to the shallower shelf areas.

"As the surface waters warm up, that will make it possible to come running over the top and raise hell with the bottom communities," Aronson said.

Unlike most areas of the world, the shallower waters on the Antarctic continental shelf are actually slightly colder than the deeper waters of the Southern Ocean. That's because of a clockwise current of water called the Antarctic circumpolar current. That flow of cold water keeps Antarctic marine life -- especially the bottom-dwelling creatures -- isolated. There are no sharks, rays or fish with bony jaws, for example, Aronson explained, in Antarctica.

"If you look at the warming trends on the peninsula, you would expect that the crabs would come back in 40 or 50 years," Aronson said from his office in Melbourne, Fla. "But boom, they're already here. This is the last pristine marine system on Earth and it could get destroyed."
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2k11 Outhouse People's Champion

Postby sdsichero » Tue Feb 08, 2011 4:22 pm

I guess these would be like small Asian dragons?

X-Rays Reveal Hidden Leg of an Ancient Snake: New Hints on How Snakes Were Getting Legless

ScienceDaily (Feb. 7, 2011) — A novel X-ray imaging technology is helping scientists better understand how in the course of evolution snakes have lost their legs. The researchers hope the new data will help resolve a heated debate about the origin of snakes: whether they evolved from a terrestrial lizard or from one that lived in the oceans. New, detailed 3-D images reveal that the internal architecture of an ancient snake's leg bones strongly resembles that of modern terrestrial lizard legs.

The results are published in the Feb. 8, 2011 issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

The team of researchers was led by Alexandra Houssaye from the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle (MNHN) in Paris, France, and included scientists from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France, where the X-ray imaging was performed, and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany, where a sophisticated technique and a dedicated instrument to take the images were developed.

Only three specimens exist of fossilised snakes with preserved leg bones. Eupodophis descouensi, the ancient snake studied in this experiment, was discovered ten years ago in 95-million-year-old rocks in Lebanon. About 50 cm long overall, it exhibits a small leg, about 2 cm long, attached to the animal's pelvis. This fossil is key to understanding the evolution of snakes, as it represents an intermediate evolutionary stage when ancient snakes had not yet completely lost the legs they inherited from earlier lizards. Although the fossil exhibits just one leg on its surface, a second leg was thought to be concealed in the stone, and indeed this leg was revealed in full detail thanks to synchrotron X-rays.

The high-resolution 3-D images, in particular the fine detail of the buried small leg, suggest that this species lost its legs because they grew more slowly, or for a shorter period of time. The data also reveal that the hidden leg is bent at the knee and has four ankle bones but no foot or toe bones.

"The revelation of the inner structure of Eupodophis hind limbs enables us to investigate the process of limb regression in snake evolution," says Alexandra Houssaye.

The scientists used synchrotron laminography, a recent imaging technique specially developed for studying large, flat samples. It is similar to the computed tomography (CT) technique used in many hospitals, but uses a coherent synchrotron X-ray beam to resolve details a few micrometers in size--some 1000 times smaller than a hospital CT scanner. For the new technique, the fossil is rotated at a tilted angle in a brilliant high-energy X-ray beam, with thousands of two-dimensional images recorded as it makes a full 360-degree turn. From these individual images, a high-resolution, 3-D representaton is reconstructed, which shows hidden details like the internal structures of the legs.

"Synchrotrons, these enormous machines, allow us to see microscopic details in fossils invisible to any other techniques without damage to these invaluable specimens," says Paul Tafforeau of the ESRF, a co-author of the study.
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Postby sdsichero » Tue Feb 08, 2011 4:24 pm

Newly Discovered Dinosaur Likely Father of Triceratops

ScienceDaily (Feb. 1, 2011) — Triceratops and Torosaurus have long been considered the kings of the horned dinosaurs. But a new discovery traces the giants' family tree further back in time, when a newly discovered species appears to have reigned long before its more well-known descendants, making it the earliest known member of its family.

The new species, called Titanoceratops after the Greek myth of the Titans, rivaled Triceratops in size, with an estimated weight of nearly 15,000 pounds and a massive eight-foot-long skull.

Titanoceratops, which lived in the American southwest during the late Cretaceous period around 74 million years ago, is the earliest known triceratopsin, suggesting the group evolved its large size more than five million years earlier than previously thought, according to Nicholas Longrich, the paleontologist at Yale who made the discovery. The finding, which will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Cretaceous Research, helps shed light on the poorly understood origins of these giant horned dinosaurs.

Longrich was searching through scientific papers when he came across a description of a partial skeleton of a dinosaur discovered in New Mexico in 1941. The skeleton went untouched until 1995, when it was finally prepared and identified incorrectly as Pentaceratops, a species common to the area. When the missing part of its frill -- the signature feature of the horned dinosaurs -- was reconstructed for display in the Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, it was modeled after Pentaceratops.

"When I looked at the skeleton more closely, I realized it was just too different from the other known Pentaceratops to be a member of the species," Longrich said, adding that the specimen's size indicated that it likely weighed about twice as much as adult Pentaceratops. The new species is very similar to Triceratops, but with a thinner frill, longer nose and slightly bigger horns, Longrich said.

Instead, Longrich believes that Titanoceratops is the ancestor of both Triceratops and Torosaurus, and that the latter two split several millions years after Titanoceratops evolved. "This skeleton is exactly what you would expect their ancestor to look like," he said.

Titanoceratops was probably only around for about a million years, according to Longrich, while the triceratopsian family existed for a total of about 10 million years and roamed beyond the American southwest into other parts of the country and as far north as Canada.

In order to confirm the discovery beyond any trace of a doubt, Longrich hopes paleontologists will find other fossil skeletons that include intact frills, which would help confirm the differences between Titanoceratops and Pentaceratops.

"There have got to be more of them out there," Longrich said.
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Postby sdsichero » Tue Feb 08, 2011 4:30 pm

Biggest Bear Ever Found—"It Blew My Mind," Expert Says
"There's nothing else that even comes close."
Christine Dell'Amore
National Geographic News
Published February 3, 2011

There's a new titleholder for the biggest, baddest bear ever found.

A prehistoric South American giant short-faced bear tipped the scales at up to 3,500 pounds (1,600 kilograms) and towered at least 11 feet (3.4 meters) standing up, according to a new study.

The previous heavyweight was a North American giant short-faced bear—a related extinct species—that weighed up to 2,500 pounds (1,134 kilograms). The largest bear on record in modern times was a 2,200-pound (998-kilogram) polar bear shot in Alaska in the 19th century.

The South American giant short-faced bear roamed its namesake continent abcaout 500,000 to 2 million years ago and would have been the largest and most powerful meat-eater on land at the time, scientists say.

As meat-eaters go, "there's nothing else that even comes close" during the time period, said study co-author Blaine Schubert, a paleontologist at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee.

"It just blew my mind how big it was."

The bear skeleton, found in Buenos Aires Province, Argentina, in 1935, was recently reexamined by Schubert and study co-author Leopoldo Soibelzon, a paleontologist from Argentina who specializes in South American fossil bears.

By measuring its almost elephant-size humerus, or upper arm bone, the team was able to calculate the size of the rest of the bear's body, Schubert said.

Their analysis also revealed that the animal was an old male that had endured several serious injuries throughout his life.

For Bear, Size Matters

Less certain, however, is what and how these bears ate—and why they were so different from their North American cousins, Schubert noted.

For instance, the South American giant short-faced bear species started huge and became smaller over time, while the North American species grew bigger.

In South America, Schubert suspects, a glut in prey and a lack of competition combined to make the bear king of the continent. But as more meat-eaters evolved, short-faced bears adapted, becoming smaller and more omnivorous, like the modern-day black bear.

In North America, the short-faced bear's increasing size may have offered an advantage—its sheer heft may have scared off saber-toothed cats and other predators from their kills, the researchers speculate.

And the short-faced bear's reign in North America would have also coincided with an explosion in Ice Age megafauna, such as giant ground sloths, camels, and mammoths—all potential new food sources.

"We had an Africa here," Schubert said, and "it's gone now."
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Postby sdsichero » Tue Feb 08, 2011 4:37 pm

Poisonous New Pseudoscorpion Found in Colorado Cave
Nearly blind animal has venom-tipped pincers.
Christine Dell'Amore
National Geographic News
Published February 4, 2011

Unless you've been living in a cave, you probably haven't run across this new species of poisonous, nearly blind pseudoscorpion.

The 0.5-inch-long (1.3-centimeter-long) species, Cryptogreagris steinmanni, was discovered recently in high-altitude caverns near Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

Pseudoscorpions are essentially scorpions that lack a stinging tail. However, the new species does have long, venom-tipped pincers that likely help it nab agile prey, such as springtails, in the gloom.

Most likely, the new pseudoscorpion lives only in Glenwood Caverns and Historic Fairy Caves, the study authors say.

"A lot of these caves are islands, almost like an isolated environment where invertebrates ... evolve into being adapted to underground life," said biospeleologist David Steinmann, a zoology department associate with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Steinmann collected the new species after it was discovered in 2000 by tour guide Micah Ball.

With its primitive eyes and pale color, the arachnid is perfectly suited to its dark, chilly existence and has probably been scurrying through the passages for millions of years, Steinmann said.

New Pseudoscorpion Elusive—Until Now

Little is known about C. steinmanni, but it's thought to be rare, relatively long-lived, and able to curl up into a defensive ball when threatened.

The animal went unnoticed for so long because it blends in well with the rocks—and because few people have been crawling around caves looking for tiny creatures.

Steinmann, an avid caver, has discovered more than a hundred new invertebrate species so far in Colorado caves, including at least seven in Glenwood Springs alone. (See cave pictures.)

"It's always fun to see what's out there."

The new-pseudoscorpion study appeared in December 2010 in the journal Subterranean Biology.

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Postby sdsichero » Tue Feb 08, 2011 5:07 pm

Solar-Powered Hornet Found; Turns Light Into Electricity
In an animal kingdom first, insect's "skin" pigments convert sunlight into energy.
Matt Kaplan
for National Geographic News
Published December 21, 2010

The oriental hornet has built-in "solar cells" that generate electricity from sunlight—a first in the animal kingdom, according to a new study.

Scientists already knew that the hornet species, for unknown reasons, produced electricity inside its exoskeleton, according to study leader Marian Plotkin of Tel-Aviv University.

Plotkin's late mentor Jacob Ishay made the discovery after observing that the insect is active when the sun is most intense—unusual for hornets.

Plotkin and colleagues recently went a step further by examining the structure of the hornet's exoskeleton to find out how the electricity is produced.

Their research revealed that pigments in the hornet's yellow tissues trap light, while its brown tissues generate electricity. Exactly how the hornets use this electricity is still not entirely understood, Plotkin noted.

"When I was running my experiment, people told me it was never going to work," she said. "I'm so happy at the results."

While solar cells using human-made substances are usually 10 to 11 percent efficient at generating electricity, the hornet's cells are only 0.335 percent efficient. For instance, the hornet still gets the vast majority of its energy from food.

But that's hardly the point, Plotkin said.

"We've seen solar harvesting in plants and bacteria, but never before in animals."

Hornet Pigment a Solar Power Source

The team found that many of the hornet's brown tissues contain melanin, the pigment that protects human skin cells by absorbing damaging ultraviolet light and transforming it into heat.

A structural analysis of the brown tissues also uncovered grooves that capture light by channeling rays into the tissues and breaking them apart into smaller rays.

The brown tissues "are a lot like a light trap—only one percent of the light that strikes is reflected away," said Plotkin, whose study appeared in the December issue of the journal Naturwissenschaften.

The hornet's yellow tissues contained the obscure pigment xanthopterin, which gives butterfly wings and mammal urine their color.

When the team isolated xanthopterin in a liquid solution, and then placed the solution inside a solid solar cell electrode, a type of conductor. When the scientists shed light on the electrode, the pigment in the solution generated electricity.

"Fabulous" Hornet Study Needs Comparison

Entomologist Chris Lyal at London's Natural History Museum called the study a "fabulous investigation."

"I'd love to see a comparison with the [exoskeleton] structure of other hornets that do not appear to be gathering energy from the sun. In theory, other hornets should have exoskeleton layers that look very different," said Lyal, who was not involved in the study.

It's also possible other insects have similar electricity-generating abilities, Lyal added.

"For instance, I remember coming across the Apollo butterfly in the Pyrenees, which basks in the sun before flying—presumably absorbing solar radiation," he said.

"I wonder how different the hornet tissues actually are from those of that butterfly."

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Postby sdsichero » Wed May 25, 2011 12:26 am

Top Ten New Species of 2010 announced by the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University:

- Pancake batfish (Halieutichthys intermedius)
- Golden spotted monitor (Varanus bitalawa)
- Pollinating cricket (Glomeremus orchidopillus)
- Darwin's bark spider (Caerostris darwin)
- (Mycena luzaeterna) bioluminescent mushroom
- Walter's duiker (Philantomba walteri)
- (Psathyrella aquatica) underwater mushroom
- (Tyrannobdella rex) leech
- (Saltoblattella montistabularis) cockroach that jumps like a grasshopper
- (Halomonas titanicae) bacterium found on the RMS Titanic, eats iron-oxide

Pictures at the link
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Postby sdsichero » Wed May 25, 2011 3:00 pm

epomis beetle


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Postby sdsichero » Thu Jun 02, 2011 9:56 pm

‘Devil Worm’ Takes Animal Life to New Depths
By Brandon Keim June 1, 2011 | 5:20 pm

It came from the deep, a mile below the Earth’s surface, in a place where only bacteria were thought to exist.

It’s Halicephalobus mephisto, a new species of roundworm that radically extends the possibilities of animal life on this planet and perhaps on others.

“Our results expand the known metazoan biosphere and demonstrate that deep ecosystems are more complex than previously accepted,” wrote researchers led by biologist Gaetan Borgonie of Belgium’s Ghent University in a June 1 Nature paper. “The ability of multicellular organisms to survive in the subsurface should be considered in the evolution of eukaryotes and the search for life on Mars.”

It’s only been two decades since scientists recognized that any life whatsoever could live hundreds or thousands of feet beneath Earth’s surface, a region of extreme pressure, high temperatures and few nutrients. Now it’s thought that up to one-half of all biological matter exists there, though this newly conventional wisdom holds that subsurface life is strictly the domain of single-celled organisms, not complex animals.

For the last 20 years, Borgonie has studied roundworms, developing what he calls “a healthy respect for their ability to withstand stress.” Various members of the ubiquitous, 28,000-species-strong phylum can live almost without oxygen, in extremely acidic environments, and despite prolonged starvation. When space shuttle Columbia tragically disintegrated upon re-entering Earth’s atmosphere in 2003, roundworms in a canister on its wings survived.

Five years ago, Borgonie started to wonder whether roundworms might live in Earth’s subsurface. Comparing their known physiological limits to subsurface conditions, he reasoned that roundworms should be able to survive there. Few people agreed.

“Everyone thought I was insane risking a career hunting something everybody said they knew could not be,” said Borgonie. But even as grantmakers denied him funding, he met Tullis Onstott, a Princeton University biologist who also suspected that roundworms could live deep.

Borgonie took a sabbatical in 2008, and the pair used money from their savings to travel to South Africa, home to some of the world’s deepest mines. Water recovered from their depths had already revealed such extremophile marvels as the world’s first single-organism ecosystem. Borgonie and Onstott’s team found the world’s first subsurface animals.

The most striking creature was a previously undescribed, 0.05-cm-long roundworm of the Halicephalobus genus, which Borgonie and Onstott dubbed H. mephisto in honor of the German lord of the underworld. Also present were a known roundworm, Plectus aquiatilis, and an as-yet-unidentified specimen. Subsequent tests found they ate subsurface bacteria, thus sealing any question of their origin.

While their specimens were all found at depths of one mile, water from two miles down returned a “DNA signal,” or genes that belonged to some still-unidentified roundworm. Asked what else could be there, Borgognie said, “My guess is more than we think. If nematodes are there, then some other small invertebrates might be there too.”

As to how H. mephisto and other animals might influence flows of energy and chemicals beneath Earth’s surface, that isn’t yet known, said Borgonie. It’s not even known whether and how life’s subsurface cycles affect life above, though it makes sense that some connection exists. “We’re only scratching the surface,” said Borgonie. “What is sure is that the nematodes we found do eat bacteria. As such they will affect the turnover of the microbial community, and that is completely new.”

According to Borgonie, subsurface roundworms should be found all over the world, including far below the ocean floor, where some scientists think Earth’s life originated. The implications may even extend to other worlds, where researchers generally assume that conditions will be so extreme as to preclude all but single-celled life.

“Harsh conditions do not automatically preclude complexity,” said Borgognie. “If life arose on Mars and it is still there deep underground, then it may have continued to evolve into something more complex than we are willing to entertain today.”



Postby Oshawott_Is_Dead » Thu Jun 02, 2011 10:00 pm

Anyone mention this?

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Postby Benderbrau » Thu Jun 02, 2011 10:09 pm

OldSchoolJew18 wrote:Anyone mention this?

Sacrilege! May his noodly appendage strike down these heathens!

And WTF? There's no German word for "monster"? :?
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2k11 Outhouse People's Champion

Postby sdsichero » Thu Jun 02, 2011 10:15 pm

OldSchoolJew18 wrote:Anyone mention this?

I knew I left my testicles somewhere...
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Postby sdsichero » Thu Jun 02, 2011 10:28 pm

Always thought anomalocaris was cool...


Spiny-Headed Predator Dominated Pre-Dino Seas
By Jennifer Viegas
Wed May 25, 2011 01:00 PM ET


* The world's first big predators grew larger, and existed for much longer, than previously thought.
* These predators, known as anomalocaridids, possessed spiny head limbs, blade-like back filaments and plates around the mouth.

The world's earliest known large predators shoved prey into their mouths using long spiny limbs protruding from their heads and grew larger than previously thought, suggests a new fossil recently discovered in Morocco.

The more than 3-foot-long animal, described in the latest issue of Nature, was part of an unusual group of marine predators called anomalocaridids. They were the largest animals of the Cambrian period, known for its "Cambrian Explosion" that 540-500 million years ago resulted in the sudden appearance of all major animal groups.

It was previously thought that anomalocaridids died out at the end of the Cambrian, but the new fossil proves these sturdy hunters lived millions of years more, well into the Ordovician Era.

"This is important because, until now, it was believed that these animals had disappeared 30 million years earlier," co-author Peter Van Roy told Discovery News. "This new evidence shows that these giant predators continued to dominate the food chain as apex predators for a much longer time than had been thought."

Co-author Derek Briggs, director of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, added, "These giant invertebrate predators and scavengers have come to symbolize the unfamiliar morphologies displayed by organisms that branched off early from lineages leading to modern marine animals, and then went extinct. Now we know that they died out much more recently than we thought."

Van Roy, formerly of Yale and now at Ghent University in Belgium, and Briggs analyzed the new Moroccan fossil, which is part of a treasure trove of animal remains dating to the Ordovician period from 488 to 472 million years ago.

The researchers admit that, to modern eyes, anomalocaridids are "very strange-looking animals."

"They have a head with stalked, probably compound eyes, and a pair of segmented, flexible spinose limbs at the front of the head," Van Roy explained. "These limbs most likely functioned for the capture and manipulation of prey, and to transfer the food to the mouth. The mouth itself is surrounded by a set of moveable toothed plates set in a circle."

These toothed plates likely crushed and tore apart prey, which consisted of soft-bodied smaller animals and possibly some small harder organisms, like trilobites.

The Moroccan specimen's body was elongated and segmented, with blade-like filaments across the back. The researchers think these might have functioned as gills.

All anomalocaridids were fast and agile, but probably hunted using different strategies. Some might have laid in wait while partially buried in mud at the sea floor, similar to modern cuttlefish, while others either patrolled the seafloor bottom or were more adapted for long distance swimming.

Since it's now known that these marine predators persisted into the Ordovician, their actual extinction may have been due to the rise of other hunter groups that evolved better survival adaptations.

Scientists can make that educated guess because the anomalocaridids' spot at the top of the food chain was later taken over by predators like eurypterids, which looked like scorpions and are related to today's horseshoe crabs, and nautiloids. The latter is a group of mainly extinct marine mollusks that includes the spiral-shelled nautilus.

Although no anomalocaridids are alive today, the world is now full of their distant relatives. These include animals like crabs, scorpions, spiders, centipedes millipedes, lobsters, insects and other members of what is now the planet's largest animal group: the arthropods.


Postby Oshawott_Is_Dead » Thu Jun 02, 2011 10:36 pm

Benderbrau wrote:Sacrilege! May his noodly appendage strike down these heathens!

And WTF? There's no German word for "monster"? :?

You believe in him? FOOL! May the PBJ Devil have mercy on your soul!


Postby Oshawott_Is_Dead » Thu Jun 02, 2011 11:24 pm

Behold the true monster.......


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