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Preserved 520 million year-old sea monster unearthed

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Thursday, July 17, 2014, 6:44 PM - Parts of the brain and nervous system can clearly be seen in a spectacular fossil that was recently unearthed in China.

Researchers say the 520 year-old sea monster dominated the oceans during the Cambrian period. It was equipped with body armor, a cone-shaped mouth and sharp claws that it used to catch prey.

The animal is an anomalocaridid, a group of notorious shrimp-like creatures that could grow to about 6 feet in length.

Dubbed Lyrarapax unguispinus, the preserved specimen is thought to represent one of the very first predators its time.

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And yet -- despite a keen ability to hunt, scientists say its brain wasn't overly complex.

"The top predator of the Cambrian had a brain that was much less complex than that of some of its possible prey and that looked surprisingly similar to a modern group of rather modest worm-like animals," lead-author Nicholas Strausfeld told the Guardian.

The preserved specimen is tiny, measuring only 15 centimeters. It may have represented the animal in an "immature" stage of life.

The complete findings have been published in the journal Nature.

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