by Elizabeth Gamillo/Smithsonianmag.com
Camouflaged in sandy loam, ancient giant worms waited for unsuspecting prey to swim within their reach and then suddenly emerge from the ground in a snap to pull fish to their demise. Now, 20 million years later, researchers have uncovered these colossal sea predators’ hideaways, according to a study published this month in Scientific Reports. The burrow may be the earliest known fossil of an ambush predator.
The L-shaped lair found imprinted in ancient seafloor sediment from Taiwan measured about 7 feet long and one inch wide, reports Mindy Weisberger for Live Science. The worms that burrowed in these tunnels may have been the ancestors of modern Bobbit worms, Eunice aphtoditois. Bobbit worms or bristle worms have been around since the Cambrian period, reports Live Science, and they can be anywhere between a few inches to 10 feet long. The worms also have sharp teeth, hide within the ocean floor, and use their antenna to sense when prey is nearby. When the Bobbit worm feels something above them, it will lunge out of the sand to snatch and gobble up the ill-fated prey.