The Cambrian Critter Project Cont'd.
 The Nautiloid
     The Nautiloid (left) is truly one of my favorite creatures of the Cambrian/Devonian periods.  It is a member of the group of animals known as “cephalopods” which includes octopus, squid and cuttlefish.  Nautiloids flourished during the late Cambrian period and continued on into the Paleozoic era.  They are the ancestors of the modern Nautilus which is alive and well living in the Southwest Pacific Ocean.  These were very effective predators with the ability to capture and consume large prey items with their lightening fast tentacles.  There are a number of different shell shapes associated with the Nautiloid but they often fell into two general shapes- straight or curved.  Fossilized shells have been found measuring up to 13 feet long!  Keen eyesight also enabled this bottom dweller to spot its next meal with deadly accuracy.

    The Chambered Nautilus is pictured below and right.  Its shell has taken on a curved shape  over the last few hundred million years.  It is a lethal predator and has survived extinction by living in the deep ocean realm.

      Opabinia (below) is a strange one indeed.  It possessed five eyes, a long segmented body, a spiked tail and a long appendage probably used for grasping its prey. As with many of the Cambrian critters, Opabinia does not have any living relatives today.
      Sanctacaris is an unusual creature found in the Burgess Shale and is pictured to the right. The head bears five pairs of grasping appendages and a sixth pair of large separate appendages. The grasping appendages each bear a short antenna. There are 11 body segments, each with a pair of walking legs and gills. There is a broad, flat paddle-like telson or tail very similar to that of a lobster.

     Originally Sanctacaris was called informally 'Santa Claws' however, its Latin name translates as "saintly crab".

         Pictured to the right is Kimberella which represents an important evolutionary jump which actually occured before the Cambrian Explosion took place.  These fascinating soft bodied creatures resembled water balloons that were capable of locomotion.
 Diania cactiformis    
        This interesting creature is called Diania Cactiformis also known as the "Walking Cactus".  What is significant about this simple creature is that scientists believe that it is the first of the group of animals known as "lobopods" or creatures with segmented legs.  This is really important because the lobopods actually came before arthropods and may have a modern relative in the velvet worm.  They have hooked claws at the end of their stubby legs and spines all along each appendage which were probably used for defense against predators. 

    This particular creature was found in China and there is not a lot known about its feeding or social behavior.

          Nectocaris pictured right means ‘swimming shrimp” and was probably related to the cephalopod family which include cuttlefish.  It must have been a predator and used its tentacles to capture prey and position it towards its mouth.  It was a free swimmer and capable of moving quickly through the water column in search of its next meal.  Its long dorsal fin provided it with tremendous manueverability and speed which helped to escape close calls with a predator.

 How to Construct a Cambrian Critter without making it really mad....

         Click on one of the creepy creatures and find out how!
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