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According to the researchers, the animal’s head configuration is “unique,” with roughly 75 grasping spines per side. It probably captured its prey by flapping its graspy bits toward one another, forcing its helpless victims into its anus-shaped mouth. Capinatator may have only been four inches long, but it still would have been a “terrifying sight” to small marine critters alive at the time, according to study co-author Jean-Bernard Caron.
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However, later on a French biologist thought perhaps the animal belonged in a different genus, and that it should be the Penicillus penis —but the Penicillus name was already in use by some other mollusks. Finally, German malacologist Peter Friedrich Röding came along to set everyone straight, explained Gerber. Röding created a whole new genus especially for the penis: Verpa, the latin slang term for penis.
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Chaetognaths, also known as arrow worms, are a diverse phyla of tiny predators that swim about eating smaller in the open ocean. They evolved hundreds of millions of years ago, possibly during the early Cambrian, but where exactly they fit among other animals on the evolutionary tree isn’t totally clear. As one of the most striking chaetognaths ever discovered, Capinatator praetermissus could shed light on how these critters, their lifestyle, and their ecological roles have evolved over time.
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“The large body size and high number of grasping spines in C. praetermissus may indicate that miniaturization and migration to a planktonic lifestyle,” the lifestyle most chaetognaths enjoy today, “were secondary,” the researchers write. Earlier forms like this one might have prowled closer to the seafloor, and been larger than their contemporaries. Obviously, more fossil specimens from the same time period could help confirm or refute that idea.
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As detailed in this week’s Current Biology , researchers at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History and the Royal Ontario Museum drew on roughly 55 fossils specimens, collected from the Burgess Shale fossil bed in British Columbia, in order to identify Capinatator praetermissus as a new genus and species of arrow worm. Fossilized chaetognaths that include evidence of soft tissue are incredibly rare—the researchers say only two other unequivocal specimens have been reported, and both from fossil beds in China. Many of the specimens in the new paper feature evidence of soft tissue, which allowed scientists to piece together the anatomy of the animal’s gut and musculature.
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It’s not just invertebrates that take the form of the male genitalia. Thermarces cerberus is an eel-like fish that lives deep underwater near hydrothermal vents. It’s got a light, fleshy color, similar to other organisms that live in the deep deep. “Like most of the other deep sea fishes, they’re just adapted to live down in those environments,” said McMahan. “They can handle the high temperatures of the things that come out of the hydrothermal vents.”
The burrowing goby is another elongated, pinkish fish that burrows and lives in sandy marine environments. But were folks naming the fish aware that they’d just picked about as silly a name as it gets for a penis-like fish? “It was described in probably the early 6955s,” said McMahan. “Someone early on noticed something about this fish that warranted that name.” What they most likely noticed was its fleshy pink color.More images «Science museum lates speed dating»
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