Three-Eyed Marine Predator Found After Half A Billion Years

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Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
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Canadian paleontologists published a study Saturday about a huge stash of fossilized three-eyed sea monsters that existed half a billion years ago.

Stanleycaris hirpex was a 20-centimeter-long relative of today’s insects, spiders and crustaceans, according to ABC. The latest discovery of “exquisite fossils” (fossils that have been well-preserved over time) showed the creature had three eyes, one on each side and a huge one in the middle of its head, according to a study published by Current Biology.

More than 268 fossils of Stanleycaris were discovered in previously unstudied collections of Burgess Shale rock at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, according to ABC. Prior to the discovery, only bits of Stanleycaris had been found, such as body parts for feeding and partial fossils, the outlet continued.

The discovery has prompted scientists to rethink the way creatures such as spiders and insects evolve, according to a statement released by the Royal Ontario Museum. (RELATED: ‘Frozen In Time’: Scientists Make Huge 2,100-Year-Old Discovery In Israel)

“The details are really crisp and beautiful,” lead author Joseph Moysiuk said, according to ABC. “You can see actual visual processing centres [sic] inside the eye stalks … almost unbelievable for something that’s half a billion years old.”

Researchers were able to identify parts of Stanleycaris’ brain that connected to its three eyes and claws, as well as the segmentations of its body, ABC reported.

“If you’re a predator, for example, it’s really important that you have good control over your position in the environment,” Moysiuk continued, according to the outlet. “So, if I was to speculate on what was going on with Stanleycaris, I’d say maybe we had something similar going on there.”

Stanleycaris lived during the Cambrian Period, roughly 541 million to 485 million years ago, a time defined by an explosion in evolution from simple animals to complex creatures, ABC reported. Stanleycaris was one of the largest creatures in existence at the time, the outlet continued.