About 540 million years ago, a tremendous radiation of new species called the Cambrian Explosion began. From what we know of the fossil record, life started to get very interesting around this time. In places around the world, such as the Burgess Shale of Canada, bizarre creatures can be found hiding as fossils inside the rocks. They were generally soft-bodied animals that typically don’t fossilize well, but the state of their preservation is incredible. Paleontologists have found animals with five eyes, predators with a disc-like mouth and relatives of modern-day velvet worms with long spines on their backs.
Hallucigenia, a velvet worm relative with large spikes on its back, has been the poster child for the bizarre evolutionary extremes of the Cambrian Explosion. Paleontologists recently discovered that they’ve been reconstructing Hallucigenia incorrectly after finding the very first head of this animal, complete with eyes and mouth.
Now scientists have discovered an even more bizarre velvet worm relative from China called Collinsium. While not a very big animal, Collinsium certainly boasted some rather intimidating features. It has 72 spikes running along its back, nine pairs of rear legs with claws and perhaps to balance out the armor it had six pairs of feathery front legs.