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Photos: 'Millennium Falcon' Predator Hunted Seas Half a Billion Years Ago

Cambrian predator

Millennium Falcon predator fossils

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

Meet Cambroraster falcatus, a hand-size predator that lived about half a billion years ago, during the Cambrian period. It looked so much like the Millennium Falcon from "Star Wars" that paleontologists named the species after the spaceship. [Read more about the fearsome Cambrian predator]

Space cadet

Millennium Falcon predator fossils

(Image credit: Jean-Bernard Caron/Copyright Royal Ontario Museum)

C. falcatus had a shell on its head called a carapace. The deep notches are where the creature's eyes would have sat.

Excavation

Millennium Falcon predator fossils

(Image credit: Andrew Gregg/Copyright Red Trillium Films)

Jean-Bernard Caron, a curator of invertebrate palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada, excavated a C. falcatus fossil. All of the fossils were found in the famous Burgess Shale deposit in the Canadian Rockies.

Hand-size predator

Millennium Falcon predator fossils

(Image credit: Andrew Gregg/Copyright Red Trillium Films)

Most of the fossils show that the creature was about the size of a person's hand. The largest individual was nearly 12 inches (30 centimeters) across, Caron told Live Science.

Swimming flaps

Millennium Falcon predator fossils

(Image credit: Jean-Bernard Caron/Copyright Royal Ontario Museum)

These fossils show both sides of the first complete specimen that scientists found.

Rack-like claw

Millennium Falcon predator fossils

(Image credit: Jean-Bernard Caron/Copyright Royal Ontario Museum)

C. falcatus had rack-like claws that it likely used to catch prey.

Pineapple-shaped mouth

Millennium Falcon predator fossils

(Image credit: Jean-Bernard Caron/Copyright Royal Ontario Museum)

The predator's mouth looked like a circular pineapple slice. Notice the rows of toothed plates.

Small but deadly

Millennium Falcon predator fossils

(Image credit: Copyright Royal Ontario Museum)

This helps put the size of C. falcatus in perspective.

One of many

Millennium Falcon predator fossils

(Image credit: Andrew Gregg/Copyright Red Trillium Films)

The paleontologists found 140 unique fossils of C. falcatus in the Canadian Rockies.

Rocky map

Millennium Falcon predator fossils

(Image credit: Copyright As the Crow Flies Cartography)

This map shows the approximate locations of Marble Canyon and Tokumm Creek, where the fossils were discovered in the Canadian Rockies.

Paleontologists

Millennium Falcon predator fossils

(Image credit: Joe Moysiuk/Copyright Royal Ontario Museum)

Study co-researchers Joe Moysiuk (left) and Caron (right) working at the Burgess Shale at Kootenay National Park in British Columbia, Canada.