Saturday, July 19, 2014

Thinking about a Plate of Shrimp

"Take a look at this identity line-up of Cambrian lobopods, sir. Do you recognise..."
"Him! That one on the right! That's the one I saw evolving into an Anomalocarid!"
There is much to love about Cambrian lobopods, not least the term 'Xenusiids', which is straight from an old BBC script (sent back to the writer because "The name of Dr Who's alien adversaries sounds too silly").
Also their resemblance to ambulatory pear pimples for hairy fish-nuts prickly-pear bushes, or to a homemade Father's Day gift assembled from toadskin wrapped around a pipe-cleaner sculpture, NOT THAT I'M BITTER and IT'S THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS.

Over to the right of the line-up, note the speculative evolutionary trails from the Xenusiid lobopods to tardigrades, and to Pentastomid parasites like Bockelericambria -- which really deserve a Riddled post to themselves for being so ghastly as to belong in Charlie Stross' next 'Laundry' novel.
As well as Kerygmachela kierkegaardi and Pambdelurion whittingtoni, other lobopods elsewhere in the Cambrian oceans had finished evolving into Anomalocarids a wide variety of seafood-pizza toppings as shown above [art stolen from John Meszaros]. While other Anomalocarids had already evolved into primitive anthropods... ancestors of crustaceans, and in the case of the Megacheira, ancestors of spiders. So if Megacheira evolved from lobopods, how come there are still lobopods?

One Anomalocarid survived another 100 million years into the Devonian era by growing flippers and pretending to be a penguin. The official line, otherwise, is that they are long-extinct so we will never what they taste like with caper butter; and any resemblance between their circular mouthparts and those of Fane Flaws cartoon characters c. 1987 is purely coincidental.

The official line is also that lobopods are entirely of terrestrial origin, and that velvet worms such as Peripatus are the only surviving relatives.

Siberion lenaicus is especially scary. No further speciments are likely to turn up because after Dzik's initial report, that particular limestone outcrop in Siberia was destroyed. This was by private fossil collectors and was totally not a cover-up to forestall the piecing together of dissociated knowledge that would open up terrifying vistas of reality.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Another fine segment from S.C.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

which really deserve a Riddled post to themselves for being so ghastly as to belong in Charlie Stross' next 'Laundry' novel.

Anomalocaris makes a cameo appearance in proto-'Laundry' story "A Colder War", as does Oliver North. One is a horrid basal arthropod, the other is Anomalocaris.

Tim Hansen said...

I really hate it when media calls Anomalocaris a "monster shrimp", even if they once assumed the frontal extremities were part of a crustacean or something. It would be like calling a large cynodont a primitive dog.

Anyway, also the novel Tunnels #2: Deeper by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams has a scene with an Anomalocaris. It ends up in boiling water and is then eaten by hungry mouths.