An Edward Scissorhands-like fossil has emerged from a national park in Canada, British researchers reported.
Found in the valley of the Stanley Glacier, in Kootenay National Park, British Columbia, the newly discovered species features the body structure of a 505 million-year-old sea creature with scissor-like claws.
“When I first saw the pair of isolated claws in the fossil records of this species I could not help but think of Edward Scissorhands,” David Legg, who made the discovery while working on his Ph.D. at Imperial College London, said in a statement.
Legg, who detailed the finding in the Journal of Palaeontology, decided to name the new species Kooteninchela deppi (pronounced Koo-ten-ee-che-la depp-eye) in honor of Johnny Depp’s starring role in the 1990 cult movie.
Directed by Tim Burton, the movie was about an artificial man named Edward, built by an inventor who died before giving him hands. This meant he was left with a set of blades in the place of fingers.
“Even the genus name, Kootenichela, includes the reference to this film as ‘chela’ is Latin for claws or scissors. In truth, I am also a bit of a Depp fan,” Legg said.
An ancestor to lobsters and scorpions, Kooteninchela deppi roamed the sea about 270 million years before dinosaurs actually began to appear.
Less than two inches long with an elongate, multi-segmented body and millipede-like legs, the creature boasted large compound eyes similar to that of a fly. These eyes were located on top of movable stalks called peduncles, helping the creature to more easily search for food and look out for predators.
Over half a billion years ago, the cost of British Columbia in Canada was located much closer to the equator and the sea temperature would have been much warmer than it is today.
Living in very shallow seas among wild sponges, the tiny creature — a hunter or scavenger — used its multiple legs to scuttle along the sea floor. According to Legg, its large Edward Scissorhands-like claws and the long spines that enhanced them helped to grab prey or scour the sea floor for creatures hiding there.
Belonging to a group called the “great-appendage” arthropods, or megacheirans, in reference to the enlarged pincer-like frontal claws that they share, Kooteninchela deppi is helping researchers to understand more about life on Earth during the Cambrian period, when nearly all modern animal types emerged.
Indeed, the “great-appendage” arthropods are early ancestors to everything from scorpions and millipedes to insects and crabs.
“The prawns covered in mayonnaise in your sandwich, the spider climbing up your wall and even the fly that has been banging into your window and annoyingly flying into your face are all descendants of Kooteninchela deppi,” Legg said.
He added that current estimates indicate there are more than one million known insects and potentially 10 million more yet to be categorized.
“It potentially means that Kooteninchela deppi has a huge family tree,” he said.
Images: 1.The Kootenichela deppi fossil and Edward Scissorhands. Credit: Imperial College London; Wikimedia Commons. 2. Kootenichela deppi reconstruction. Credit: Imperial College London.