Schinderhannes bartelsi

The title just grabs you, doesn’t it? It’s okay if it doesn’t; this organism did enough grabbing in its day anyway.

S. bartelsi was recently discovered in a piece of slate in Germany. The fossil offers some clues as to the origin of the claws of scorpions and horseshoe crabs.

“With a head like the giant Cambrian aquatic predator Anomalocaris and a body like a modern arthropod, the specimen is the only known example of this unusual creature,” said Derek Briggs, director of Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History and an author of the paper appearing in the journal Science.

Scientists have puzzled over the origins of the paired grasping appendages found on the heads of scorpions and horseshoe crabs. The researchers suggest that Schinderhannes gives a hint. Their appendages may be an equivalent to those found in the ancient predatory ancestor, Anomalocaris — even though creatures with those head structures were thought to have become extinct by the middle of the Cambrian Period, 100 million years before Schinderhannes lived.

Recognizing the rarity of this find, Briggs references Anomalocaris (also a rare find). This organism was a proto-arthropod, but came some time before S. bartelsi. Its appendages are basically precursors to pedipalps, or the grasping claws present in scorpions and horseshoe crabs. They’ve proved to be quite durable, especially in horseshoe crabs, which have maintained their body ‘plan’ for a few hundred million years. These claws have proved quite useful for the horseshoe crab niche. Scorpions, on the other hand, have varied a bit more, but their claws are still likely homologous to this new fossil and thus also good evidence for the durability of this appendage.

Schinderhannes bartelsi

Schinderhannes bartelsi

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