Anomalocaris. This shrimp-like creature, which measured about 6 and a half feet long, was the biggest predator of the Cambrian Explosion — around 530 million years ago.
It was a funky-looking thing, with two funny feeding appendages at its front and undulating lobes down its sides. It was a swift swimmer, and feasted on trilobites much the same way we eat crawfish today — breaking them open and sucking out their insides.
To suss out the teensy trilobites, Anomalocaris used its super sharp vision. It had 30,000 lenses in each eye — compare that to the dragonfly’s 28,000!
When something is hundreds of millions of years old, it’s easy to understand why a complete specimen might be hard to come by. Although the Museum does have an original arm segment of a 500 million-year-old Anomalocaris, we wanted a high-end replica so patrons could get an idea of what this creature was really like.
Enter miss Hannah Aaronson. Hannah won one of the company’s original prototypes in an auction, and decided to lend her spiffy prehistoric model to the Museum.
Hannah’s generous gift — on loan for one year — helps to complete the evolutionary story of the trilobite. Anomalocaris had been a mysterious creature to scientists for some time, and many now speculate that it may have contributed to trilobites evolving the ability to roll up for protection.
Once the model becomes available for purchase, the museum will get its own Anomalocaris and return our current model to its rightful owner, who promises to visit it while it’s on loan to HMNS.
Of course, you should visit, too! The new Hall of Paleontology opens Friday to members and June 2 to the general public.