Bearded Cetacaris

BEARDED CETACARIS

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Another hypothetical relative of Anomalocaris.

The Bearded Ceticaris (Cetimimus barbus) is a giant anomalocarid that swims the open seas of the Late Cambrian, filtering plakton with its modified, baleen-like great appendages. It's the Paleozoic equivalent of a Basking Shark or a Leedsichthys. Surrounding it are close-ups of other organisms that live on, or in close proximity to the Ceticaris.

At top left is the Striped Panfish, (Luculentahirudea solea), a remora-like vetulicolian that attaches itself to the anomalocarid's carapace using an indent in its dorsal surface that acts like a suction cup.

In the top right corner is a colony of Beard Kelp (Rangiformes avus), a descendant of the Ediacaran Rangea. There is some speculation that Rangea and other frond-like Ediacarans may be the ancestors of comb jellies, so I gave Rangiformes the group's distinctive comb-rows, shown here as the rainbow-like iridescence along their branches. Rangiformes form large colonies on the Cetimimus' ventral surface, where they feed on the plankton clouds that their host swims through.

A species of opabinid (Opabinia rangea) lives amongst the Rangiformes fronds, also feeding on any planktonic organisms that drift by.

In the lower left is a close-up of the red tubercles on the Ceticarid's head. These are Red Andromedas, a kind of barnalce-like edrioasteroid (Andromeda nothobalanus). Like the other creatures living around the anomalocarid, they filter plankton from the water. The pink, ribbed creatures crawling over the Andromedas are Laminacostata rosea. Like the Beard Kelp, they are also Ediacaran survivors-- in this case, descendants of Dickinsonia.

Lastly, the finned, fish-like creatures swimming around the Ceticaris are Haikouella pelagica, a primitive chordate.

The original inspiration for this piece came from the fact that there are no known large, pelagic plankton feeders from the Paleozoic. The Cenozoic has whales, basking sharks, whale sharks and manta rays and the Mesozoic has Leedsichthys and probably several species of ichthyosaur, so it seems logical that the Paleozoic would have its own large planktivores to fill this niche.

This piece was originally created for a contest by Irregular Books to celebrate the release of their book, All Yesterdays which is, in their words: "an illustrated survey of possibilities and details we might be overlooking in contemporary reconstructions of extinct animals".  The Bearded Ceticarid is featured in their sequel book "All Your Yesterdays", which can be downloaded from the Irregular Books website.

UPDATE: Since I drew this piece, a number of filter-feeding Anomalocarids have actually been found.  Tamisiocaris is a large anomalocarid from the Sirius Passet faunal assemblage that seived plankton in a manner very similar to my Ceticaris.  I was actually contact by one of the authors, Jakob Vintner, about the startling coincidental resemblance between my hypothetical creature and Tamisiocaris.  You can read an article about the find here: http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2014/03/26/the-long-arm-of-the-planktivore/

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Bearded Ceticarid ©2013 John Meszaros.  All Rights Reserved