Paleontologists have discovered the fossil of an ancient worm in China, which they have named Collinsium ciliosum or the Hairy Collins' Monster, after Desmond Collins, who also discovered a similar fossil in 1980s,National Geographic reports.
The creature, described as a spiky wormlike species with 30 legs, is believed to have existed in the ocean during the Cambrian period and have gone extinct during the Paleozoic Era. It may be one of the first animals to have developed a protective armor and specialized limbs to effectively catch its food.
"It's a bit of a large animal for this time period," said Javier Ortega-Hernández, one of the researchers, according to Yahoo. "The largest specimen is just under 10 centimeters (4 inches), which, for a wormy thing, is quite mighty."
The researchers say that the monster worm may have had a hard time crawling on the ocean floor and instead hooked itself on rocks and other hard surfaces as it filtered food using its front bristled legs. As it was ikely an easy prey, the spikes served as its protective covering.
While the spiky worm closely resembles Collins' Hallucigenia, the researchers pointed out the difference: "It had much heavier armor protecting its body, with up to five pointy spines per pair of legs, as opposed to Hallucigenia's two. Unlike Hallucigenia, the limbs at the front of Collins' Monster's body were also covered with fine brushes or bristles that were used for a specialized type of feeding from the water column," according to Washington Post.
The fossil was found well-preserved in the Southern Chinese deposit site. The findings were documented in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.