Scientists Discover Weird Looking Hallucigenia Has a Weird Face Too

By James O Malley on at

Scientists have solved a long-running mystery in science: What does the head of a Hallucigenia look like?

The BBC reports that the sea creature, which was only two centimetres long and lived during the Cambrian period 500 million years ago, has only previously been found fossilised without a head. But new specimens have been unearthed in the Burgess Shale, an area in the Canadian Rockies that is rich with fossils.

"When we put it into the electron microscope, we were delighted to see not just a tiny pair of eyes looking back at us, but also beneath them a really cheeky semi-circular smile", Dr Martin Smith from Cambridge University is quoted as saying.

Apparently the creature has a ring of teeth in its mouth, but then another set of teeth running between its throat and its stomach. Yikes.

According to Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron from the University of Toronto, the creature has always been a tricky one for scientists: "When it was first formally described, it was the wrong way up. It was only recently that we found on which side were its feet and which side was its back."

And as if that wasn't awkward enough, prior to the discovery scientists thought that the creature's head was something different. There was a part of previous fossils which was a different composition to the rest of the animal. It turns out though that this 'head' was just guts of the animal that had been squeezed out of the animal during the burial and fossilisation process. [Nature via BBC]