Went fossil hunting today in a riverside shale bed that dates to the Cambrian Era; about 490 million years ago. The trilobites were plentiful, and the one that includes the ginkgo leaf is especially sweet. These are just some of the finds.
I have been fumbling around a little bit over here (posting memes and such) but I have decided to start fresh and create a bit of an encyclopedia of Phanerozoic invertebrates (clearly inspired by @a-dinosaur-a-day). Inverts need a little love as I feel they are somewhat under appreciated. If you have ever thought that anything without a backbone is a little bit boring - I just want to say that I was you once, too. Give me a little bit of time, and I hope to change your mind.
The plan is to cycle through the eras, i.e. Cambrian one day, Ordovician the next, but we will see how well that goes as I currently have far more for the Paleozoic than anything else. I’m therefore going to open up my submissions tab (I’ve never done that before) for if anyone has some ideas as to which critters I should post about.
Today’s special guest paleontologist is Professor Spruce! Known for their brilliant work on pokémon biomes, we’re excited to have such an amazing pokémon scientist writing for us again!
In many biology classes, upon learning about the different biological points in time you will often come across the term “the Cambrian explosion.” This refers to the Cambrian period which was about 542 to 488 million years ago. At this time, many amazing evolutionary changes were occurring on earth, as tons of new traits were being adapted. These traits, however primitive they may seem, paved the road for pretty much all of the life that we see today. Chordates, animals with a dorsal nerve cord and whom later evolved into vertebrates, were only one of the major groups that have emerged at this time. Chordates are a wide group, and vertebrates are a major classification of that group, of which humans belong to.
Another major group of animals that sprouted from the Cambrian period were the birth of arthropods, which as we know are any kind of invertebrate that had a segmented body, an exoskeleton, and jointed appendages. Brachiopods, creatures which lived in shells like clams or cockles, were also birthed from this explosion. The Cambrian period was so significant because it created something so astoundingly beneficial to life, we still see it today and probably will for a long time to come. This innovation is a hard body; a framework that supports the weight and flexibility of larger species, and provides great resistance to predators.
Trilobites, one of the earliest groups of arthropods, were the most successful creatures of the Cambrian era, and arguably the most successful animal in existence. They remained relatively unchanged for about 270 million years. Trilobites, although extremely diversified and geographically dispersed by the time they appeared in the fossil record, they still had a major predator, who thrived off of their vast numbers and availability. Anorith happens to be modeled after this “perfect arthropodic predator of the Cambrian era,” and that is Anomalocaris (pictured below). With all this being said, one might wonder exactly why Anorith is in fact a Bug/Rock type. Obviously because it is regenerated from a fossil, that would account for the Rock type, but why Bug and not Water? My theory on this, is because the Cambrian period allowed for so much evolutionary growth in regards to invertebrates, that to me Anomalocaris is almost like a gateway arthropod to a plethora of future shrimp, lobsters, crab, spider, insects, scorpions, the list goes on. Even though it spent its entire life underwater, it was the dominant predatory “bug” of its time.
Anorith resembles Anomalocaris greatly. They both have wing-like appendages protruding from the sides of their bodies that help it swim through the early photosynthesizing cyanobacteria invested oceans, as well as two large barbed arms that help it grip and hold prey, which it then uses its disk-like mouth to crush and inhale its meals. Anorith’s overall anatomy is pretty interesting, because utilizing the fins on the sides of its body, it moves through the water in one fluid motion. Also, because of its design, it is intrinsically stable. This may indicate that it didn’t require any complex brain to balance itself while swimming. In the anime, we see Anorith able to survive on land, be it they are close and able to access water. If we look at Anorith’s eyes, we see that they sort of form compound like eyes with a full 360 degree scope. Assuming Anorith has eyes like Anomalocaris, they would have had eyes 30 times as powerful as their tilobitic prey, and with 30,000 individual lenses they had some of the best eyesight in history Pokémon history.
Because there aren’t nearly as many fossil Pokémon as there are fossils in the real world, we can only assume that the environment Anorith would have thrived in would be similar to Anomalocaris. The mentioned trilobites that Anorith would have preyed on, could very well have been early forms of Kabuto, which are modeled after horseshoe crab that have fossils which date back to 450 million years ago. Although I doubt Anorith would have actually managed to survive on land, much because the air at this time didn’t have enough oxygen to support multicellular lifeforms, there is no doubt that Anorith would have been a fearful encounter for many Cambrian age Pokémon.
Utilizing its large hooking forearms, fluid like swimming capabilities, and top-tier eyesight, Anorith would have been the most powerful predator in the Cambrian Pokémon world.
Nectocaris is another weird Cambrian-era animal, initially thought to have been even weirder thanks to the poorly preserved nature of the type specimen. It was originally reconstructed as a worm-like animal with a crustacean-like head, thought to possess features of both arthropods and early vertebrates. However, once better-preserved fossils were discovered, Nectocaris was revealed to be a much more cephalopod-like animal.
Nectocaris has a lot of traits that are retained in modern cephalopods, including a cuttlefish-like fin and a primitive “funnel” that may have played a role in jet propulsion. These pieces of evidence, coupled with its obvious physical resemblance to squids and cuttlefish, has led some paleontologists to believe that Nectocaris was ancestral to modern cephalopods. However, there’s one big problem with this theory.
Every other ancestral cephalopod from the Cambrian period possesses a hard shell. One such example is Plectronoceras, an ancestor to both cephalopods and gastropods (slugs and snails), as well as one of the most positively darling little animals to ever live on the sea floor. Look at him! He looks like a little wizard!
…Anyway. All cephalopods had external shells of some sort, until the development of modern-looking shell-less octopi in the Late Carboniferous period. In fact, there are shelled cephalopod-like animals that predate Nectocaris in the fossil record. If Nectocaris was truly ancestral to cephalopods, that would mean that cephalopods universally lost their shells, then universally gained them again. Personally, I find that unlikely.
My personal theory is that Nectocaris represents a sister group of that which would give rise to modern cephalopods. It convergently evolved to resemble a more modern, shell-less squid, but did not give rise to them, and likely has no living direct descendants.
What she really means: I highly doubt that the Cambrian era which brought on an eruption of carnivorous animals actually led to an increase in oxygen levels. it could very well be the other way around.