Thylacares brandonensis

A new fossil was announced three days ago. Thought to be an ancient crustacean species, it is part of a group that I’d never heard of before: ‘Thylacocephalans’. The name, Thylacocephalan, is Greek for ‘pouch-headed’, so…there’s that. In my opinion, these animals are as close to Earthly aliens as you’re going to get. They have a shield on their head that covers their whole body, and in which they also live. They have ‘raptorial’ limbs (they are what you imagine) that come out of the shield, grab prey, and drag it back inside. Their shield has a notch to see out of, kind of like a crustaceous Ned Kelly. And inside the shell they have ~20 pairs of tiny paddle-like legs which work really hard to motor the creature forward. Well the new species discovered is called ‘Thylacares brandonensis‘ and is quite small and more normal looking than previously discovered species. It is only 4-7 cm (1-2 in), but is predatory. They have three pairs of those raptorial limbs, but they are smaller and less freaky than other species. I noticed that there are no reconstructions of this species, so I took the opportunity to whip one up on my iPad:

The appendages closest to the eyes are antennae. Though these were not preserved in the fossil, there are definitely appendages here on the real animal. They came off during the fossilisation process so it is unknown what they were, possibly antennae, possibly more claws. I also added in some little filter feeding appendages below those just for fun. Sorry palaeontologists. This individual is chasing a wounded flat-worm. This is the most time I’ve ever spent on a digital drawing. I’m quite happy with it, though it looks quite ‘digital’ to me. Digital artworks often look a little bit ‘synthetic’, and this one is no exception. But, after spending about 10 hours on this one, I am much better prepared for next time. Looking at it now, my signature is essentially invisible. I saw the original paper on Science Daily. This is a fossil of another species of thylacocephalan described in the paper:

Clausocaris lithographica . Image from Haug  et al . 2014

Clausocaris lithographica. Image from Haug et al. 2014

Thanks for reading :)