Fossil fangs not so fierce

Cambrian predator might have eaten soft food

Anomalocaris, that fearsome predator of ancient seas, may have to return its title. A new analysis suggests that the monstrous shrimplike creature, which lived more than 500 million years ago, couldn’t handle crunchy food.

Researchers modeled the stresses that Anomalocaris jaws would have undergone while feeding on snacks as hard as lobster tails. The team found that eating hard-shelled prey, such as the trilobites that were ubiquitous at the time, would have fractured the critter’s mouth plates, James Hagadorn of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science reported November 1.

Though fierce-looking and up to 2 meters long, Anomalocaris may have fed — like a dental patient slurping up applesauce — mostly on tiny, softer prey.

Alexandra Witze is a contributing correspondent for Science News. Based in Boulder, Colo., Witze specializes in earth, planetary and astronomical sciences.

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