Monday, August 24, 2015

Hallucigenia sparsa

Hallucigenia sparsa (Conway Morris, 1977)
Stem-Onychophora (Velvet Worms)

Middle Cambrian
Burgess Shale
British Columbia, Canada

Length: 1 – 5(+) cm

Originally reconstructed upside down, walking on stilt legs with wavy tentacles on her back (Conway Morris, 1977), Hallucigenia later received a more plausible reconstruction upon further examination of extinct relatives (Ramskold & Xianguang, 1991). However, her head eluded confused primates for decades to come. The only clue was a blobby thingy at one end of her body. Fortunately, new specimens and the rise of the machines later revealed her head, complete with simple eyes, mouth, and pharyngeal teeth, at the end opposite the blob (Smith & Caron, 2015). Turns out the blobby thingy was just decay fluid… (Does this mean I’m going to bleed out my anus after I die?) Like her modern kin (velvet worms), she possesses Matryoshka doll style claws (and in her case, also spines) composed of layered chitin, the same carbohydrate that forms arthropod exoskeletons.

Friday, July 24th, 2015

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