June 23, 2024

An ancient worm unearthed in Herefordshire was a carnivorous predator that stretched its throat to catch and eat prey, according to scientists.

The creature, named Radnorscolex latuswas found at a disused Victorian quarry site in the village of Leintwardine, near the Welsh border.

This marine worm is thought to have lived on the sea floor about 425m years ago when the region was under water. Analysis suggests that it had a retractable throat that could protrude to the sea floor to capture prey hidden in the sediment.

According to Dr Richie Howard, curator of fossil arthropods at the Natural History MuseumRadnorscolex is reminiscent of giant worms in the Hollywood blockbuster Dune.

Howard said: “We think they weren’t too picky when it came to feeding and probably just stuck their throats out in the mud and grabbed anything they could find.

“They certainly make you think of the sandworms in Duin in that respect.”

Although fossil remains of Radnorscolex were first discovered a century ago, technology was not advanced enough to allow paleontologists to examine them in great detail.

Experts from the Natural History Museum in London used the latest imaging techniques to analyze the remains.

Findings showed Radnorscolex had rows of sharp teeth and hooks on its head, which it would have used to anchor itself to the ground and drag its body forward to move.

Despite the fact that it is a predator, analysis indicates that the animal only grew to about 8 cm in length.

The researchers said Radnorscolex belonged to a group of extinct worm-like animals known as Paleoscolecids, which were completely wiped out about 400m years ago due to rapid climate and sea level change.

The findings are published in the journal Papers Paleontology.

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