Hallucigenia finally comes down to find it’s nearest relative

photo of a Hallucigenia

A specimen photo of a Hallucigenia sparsa from the collections of the Department of Paleobiology at the National Museum of Natural History. Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution. Photo by C. Clark

Hallucigenia sparsa, a strange creature that walked the seas 500 million years ago, may have finally found its family.

With its dorsal spines and a head easily confused with its tail, this wormlike animal baffled scientists for nearly 40 years—largely because no living animals seemed to be related to it.

Velvet worm

Velvet worm

But Martin Smith, Junior Research Fellow, Department of Earth Science, and other researchers from the University of Cambridge have shown that Hallucigenia has something odd in common with today’s velvet worms.

Its claws, like velvet worms’ jaws, are made up of cuticle layers stacked inside one another, they report online this week in Nature. That means Hallucigenia is likely the velvet worm’s great-great-great-great-great-etc. grandmother.





Velvet worm image from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Velvet_worm_rotated,_mirror.png

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