LAURA LAPHAM, Arts & Life Editor—There are a wonderful amount of interesting creatures present in science fiction and fantasy with aliens and animals hosting many unique designs. Today’s media exposes people to a variety of different ideas to create interesting creatures that look nothing like what we see today; however, these creatures are nothing compared to actual animals that have lived on this planet. Truth can be stranger than fiction and here are some examples of odd and amazing creatures that have lived on our planet
Long before the development of Tetrapods, long before the evolution of fish, before even the Cambrian explosion around 550 million years ago, there was the Ediacaran fauna. The Ediacaran fauna of this period were quite interesting. Many of the fauna have left imprints in sandstone today, but fossils are not really present, since they existed before the evolution of skeletons that we see in the fossil record starting in the Cambrian. The Ediacaram seem to resemble fern like structure, but these were not plants. They were animals. They are filter feeders that lived in complete darkness, and shows how not all animals are as mobile as we see today.
There was also the Cambrian animal Opebinia. Opabinia had 5 eyes that protruded from its head looking like mushrooms, a long extended claw proboscis like an elephant that is about a third of its body length, and a body reminiscent of a centipede that replaced its legs with small fin like structures. This creature is certainly a bizarre by today’s standards. They could be seen as similar in look to the Leviathans from the first Avengers movie that flew around New York, but for our more squeamish readers they are not as big and are smaller than your foot. However, this is only so encouraging for our more easily spooked readers if you already do not find the little guy who used to roam the planet endearing in any way. Now you might have seen memes online about snakes being called “danger noodles”; however, I would say opabinia os one cute, yet dangerous noodle.
Lastly, there is my personal favorite, Hallucigenia. Hallucigenia comes from the Latin word hallucinatio, which means “wandering of the mind.” This is no over-exaggeration. This expresses how the physiology of this creature is quite odd. Hallucigenia possesses 14 leg like appendages and 14 spikes along its long, wormlike body. This was a soft-bodied organism, so no skeletal remains of this creature exist, and its remains can be found in the burgess shale as a simple imprint. This creature comes from before the evolution of tetrapods, leading to a creature like no other today.
These are just a few examples of creatures that evolved long before mammals and even tetrapods that are prevalent today. There are many many more animals that have existed on this planet that are interesting and show the diversity that can exist within animals.
Laura Lapham ‘22 is a geoscience major from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.