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Photos: Ancient Shrimp-Like Critter Was Tiny But Fierce

Shrimp-like creature

ancient shrimp-like creature

(Image credit: Copyright Royal Ontario Museum)

The ancient creature Waptia fieldensis had a shrimp-like tail.

[Read more about the shrimp-like Cambrian critter]

Mustache-like antenna

ancient shrimp-like creature

(Image credit: Marianne Collins/Copyright Royal Ontario Museum)

An illustration showing W. fieldensis's rounded, paddle-like appendages and its spiny upper legs. It also had a mustache-shaped pair of antennae.

Carapace

ancient shrimp-like creature

(Image credit: Copyright Royal Ontario Museum)

An upper shell known as a carapace (yellow) covered the head of W. fieldensis.

Ancient brains

ancient shrimp-like creature

(Image credit: Copyright Royal Ontario Museum)

Some of the W. fieldensis fossils contained brain tissue.

Family tree

ancient shrimp-like creature

(Image credit: Copyright Royal Ontario Museum)

The family tree of W. fieldensis. Notice how it falls within the mandibulata group because it has mandibles.

Detailed fossil

ancient shrimp-like creature

(Image credit: Copyright Royal Ontario Museum)

The thumb-size W. fieldensis was a powerful swimmer.[Read more about the shrimp-like Cambrian critter]

Back end

ancient shrimp-like creature

(Image credit: Lars Fields/Copyright Royal Ontario Museum)

The shrimp-like tail of W. fieldensis. The fringed appendages under its body helped it paddle underwater.

Stalked eyes

ancient shrimp-like creature

(Image credit: Lars Fields/Copyright Royal Ontario Museum)

W. fieldensis had stalked eyes.

Spiny legs

ancient shrimp-like creature

(Image credit: Lars Fields/Copyright Royal Ontario Museum)

W. fieldensis used its spiny front legs to grab and disembowel prey.

Charles Doolittle Walcott

ancient shrimp-like creature

(Image credit: Copyright Smithsonian Institution Archives)

The American paleontologist Charles Doolittle Walcott (1850-1927) discovered W. fieldensis in 1909 in the fossil-rich Burgess Shale deposit of the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, Canada.

However, scientists haven't formally described the ancient critter in the scientific literature until now.

Drawings and notes

ancient shrimp-like creature

(Image credit: Smithsonian archives)

Walcott drew illustrations and described W. fieldensis in his notebook in 1909.