Worms trigger different reactions, but no one finds them threatening. You should think twice. Mainly because of what an international team of paleontologists discovered on the northeast coast of the island of Taiwan. They are fossils of the giant predatory worms that are around 20 million years old.
The researchers analyzed the sediments of the sea floor for flora and fauna from the Miocene. This covers 21 to 5.3 million years ago). Then they created a computer simulation of a trace fossil – or indirect activity residue – of this mysterious prehistoric animal. They did so based on 319 well-received tests. The study’s authors suggest that predatory worms may have inhabited the area around 20 million years ago.
The fossil trace of prehistoric worms (dubbed) Pennichnus beautiful!) consists of several L-shaped caves. They are about two meters long and two to three centimeters in diameter. They could have belonged to the ancestors of the predatory bobbit worms. These still exist today and can be up to three meters long.
Like their modern descendants, the voracious prehistoric worms hid in the sand. They attacked their prey from almost vertical caves on the sea floor. How did you hold it? With its strong and terrible jaws.
Doubts and certainties
Paleontologists explained that the bodies of sea worms are mainly made up of soft tissue. This is the main reason they are almost never kept. But why are the study’s authors convinced that these are worm caves?
The upper parts of the galleries have a high iron content. This suggests that the animal that created the tunnels oozed a slimy substance to secure the walls of the structure. That’s what the bobbits do. This substance, in turn, attracts bacteria, which create an iron-rich environment. Another indication of the tenants of these caves were their external shapes, which are characteristic of bobbit worms. The giant predatory worms of the past had many similar properties.
The researchers say the find offers a rare glimpse into the behavior of these creatures beneath the ocean floor. And it shows how useful it is to study fossil traces to understand the behavior of organisms from the past.