PHOTOS: SFU researchers find evidence of ‘giant’ predatory worms on ocean floor

The top part of the fossil burrow, seen from the side, with feathery lines from the disturbance of the soil – thought to be caused by the worm pulling prey into the burrow. (Paleoenvironntal Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University)The top part of the fossil burrow, seen from the side, with feathery lines from the disturbance of the soil – thought to be caused by the worm pulling prey into the burrow. (Paleoenvironntal Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University)
In these photos released Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, Simon Fraser University researchers (from left) Shahin Dashtgard, Ludvig Lowemark, Yu Yen Pan and Masakazu Nara, stand in Yehliu Geopark, Taiwan (Paleoenvironntal Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University)In these photos released Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, Simon Fraser University researchers (from left) Shahin Dashtgard, Ludvig Lowemark, Yu Yen Pan and Masakazu Nara, stand in Yehliu Geopark, Taiwan (Paleoenvironntal Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University)
In these photos released Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, the researchers discovered the trace fossil burrow of a two-metre predatory worm. (Paleoenvironntal Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University)In these photos released Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, the researchers discovered the trace fossil burrow of a two-metre predatory worm. (Paleoenvironntal Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University)
The upper part of the burrow is pictured. (Paleoenvironntal Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University)The upper part of the burrow is pictured. (Paleoenvironntal Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University)

A two-metre long fossil discovery has led researchers at Simon Fraser University (SFU) to conclude large predatory worms once slunk around the ocean floor.

According to SFU student Yu Yen Pan, the trace fossil was found in a rocky area in Yehliu Geopark, Taiwan – and encapsulated for more than 20 million years.

“I was fascinated by this monster burrow at first glance,” said Pan.

“Compared to other trace fossils which are usually only a few tens of centimetres long, this one was huge; two-metres long and two-to-three centimetres in diameter.”

Not only was the fossil huge in size, the burrow possessed never-before-studied features, including feather-like structures.

The team compared burrows with those from marine biologists before concluding the fossil belonged to a “giant, ambush-predatory worm,” said Pan.

SFU professor Shahin Dashtgard said the worm must have secreted mucus to rebuild its burrow after feeding, as high concentrations of iron were found nearby.

The discovery is described in a study published this week in Scientific Reports.

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Today, the only similar marine predator that exists is a large modern-day Bobbit worm much like the remnants of what was discovered in Taiwan.

It slinks around the Indo-Pacific, grabbing prey with its jaws and retreating back into its seafloor burrow.

The predator l is also referred to as a “sand striker.”



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