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University of Saskatchewan, Royal Ontario Museum researchers track half-billion year old predator
Date:11/8/2011

>The 2008 expedition included this support, so fragments of the trackway were collected by carefully separating them from the associated rock layers. These delicate pieces were then packed, air lifted from the mountain, and shipped to the ROM.

Fossil trackways and other fossilized evidence of animal activities such as burrows, bite marks and feces are known as trace fossils. These provide evidence of where animals were living and what they were doing, but the full identity of the producers is rarely known.

In this case, size of the tracks and the number of legs needed to make them left only one suspect: Tegopelte gigas. This caterpillar-like animal sported a smooth, soft shell on its back and 33 pairs of legs beneath. One of the largest arthropods of its time, it could reach up to 30 cm in length.

By analyzing both the fossilized remains of Tegopelte and the trackways, the researchers were able to reconstruct how this animal would have moved. The creature was capable of skimming rapidly across the seafloor, with legs touching the sediment only briefly, supporting the view that Tegopelte was a large and active top carnivore. Such lifestyles would have been important in shaping early marine communities and evolution during the Cambrian explosion.

The trackways were collected under Parks Canada Research and Collecting permits and are now located at the ROM. Managed by Parks Canada, the Burgess Shale was recognized in 1981 as one of Canada's first UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Now protected under the larger Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Burgess Shale attracts visitors to Yoho each year for guided hikes to the restricted fossil beds from July to September.
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Contact: Michael Robin
michael.robin@usask.ca
306-966-1425
University of Saskatchewan
Source:Eurekalert  

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