Monster Worm With Big Jaws Discovered in Canada

A giant, extinct monster-worm with threatening jaws has been discovered in the Royal Ontario Museum, Canada. The findings are documented in the journal Scientific Reports.

Image depicting the holotype of Websteroprion armstrongi. Photo credits: Luke Parry.

An enormous, primordial worm of unknown species has been found in the Canadian museum by an international team of researchers. The remains of the worm were discovered in an ancient fossil that has remained in the museum for decades. The organism is described as a bristle worm, considered the marine relative of earthworms and leeches.

This worm is nothing like others of its kind: it wore the biggest jaws ever documented, which are more than one centimetre long—yes, it is very much conspicuous to the human eye. This is what makes of this unknown worm monster-like—because fossil jaws of this nature usually make only few millimetres in size, microscopes required for their study. Based on the size of the jaws of this worm, the scientists believe the creature was over a metre in length.

Gigantism in marine worms is poorly understood as it has never been documented before, explains lead author Mats Eriksson from Lund University.

“The new species demonstrates a unique case of polychaete gigantism in the Palaeozoic, some 400 million years ago,” says Eriksson.

The fossil comes from a region in Ontario, and was recovered in June 1994, when it was brought to the museum for storage. It is only now that researchers paid closer attention to the contents thereof—highlighting the importance of looking into museum collections.

“This is an excellent example of the importance of looking in remote and unexplored areas for finding new exciting things, but also the importance of scrutinizing museum collections for overlooked gems,” comments David Rudkin, from the museum.

The worm has now been named Websteroprion armstrongi, as a tribute to Derek K Armstrong of Ontario Geological Survey who collected the specimens back in 1994, and to Alex Webster of Death Metal band Cannibal Corpse, a bass player who is considered a ‘giant’ in his domain.

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