Paleontologists from the University of Toronto and Royal Ontario Museum have discovered a new predatory species in the Kootenay National Park in the Canadian Rockies.

Cambroraster falcatus features rake-like claws and a pineapple-slice shaped mouth. It’s primary prey is speculated to be insects, crabs, spiders and other invertebrate Maximum size is up to a foot in length. Cambroraster was discovered in the Burgess Shale, which dates to 506 million years old.

Joe Moysiuk, a PhD student in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology in the Faculty of Arts & Science and lead author of the study said “Its size would have been even more impressive at the time it was alive, as most animals living during the Cambrian Period were smaller than your little finger… Cambroraster was a distant cousin of the iconic Anomalocaris, the top predator living in the seas at that time, but it seems to have been feeding in a radically different way.”

The predator was given it’s name Cambroraster in reference to the size of it’s claws. Jean-Bernard Caron, associate professor in the departments of Earth sciences and ecology and evolutionary biology said “We think Cambroraster may have used these claws to sift through sediment, trapping buried prey in the net-like array of hooked spines.”

Animation by Lars Fields/Royal Ontario Museum

As for the falcatus part of the name, it was attributed for the resemblance of the creatures back shell to the Millennium Falcon from the Star Wars series. Moysiuk added “With its broad head carapace with deep notches accommodating the upward facing eyes, Cambroraster resembles modern living bottom-dwelling animals like horseshoe crabs. This represents a remarkable case of evolutionary convergence in these radiodonts.”

Source: Preoceedings of the Royal Society B./ Univ. Toronto Photo: Jean-Bernard Caron