Prehistoric 'Dune' worm found in quarry was predator

Prehistoric worm
The worm was found in a disused Victorian quarry site in Herefordshire [Luke Parry / Nat History Museum / PA]

An ancient worm discovered in Herefordshire was a carnivorous predator that stuck its throat out to catch and eat prey, according to scientists.

The creature, named Radnorscolex latus, was found at a disused Victorian quarry site in Leintwardine.

The marine worm is thought to have lived on the sea floor about 425 million years ago, when the region was under water.

Analysis suggests it had a retractable throat that could extend out onto the seabed to capture prey hidden within the sediment.

Radnorscolex is reminiscent of giant worms in the Hollywood film Dune, according to Dr Richie Howard, curator of fossil arthropods at the National History Museum.

Dr Howard said: "We think they weren't too picky when it came to feeding and likely just shoved their throat out into the mud and grabbed anything they could find.

"They certainly make you think of the sandworms in Dune in that respect."

Fossil remains of Radnorscolex were first discovered a century ago, but the technology was not advanced enough to allow palaeontologists to examine these in great detail.

The Natural History Museum in London used state-of-the-art imaging techniques to analyse the remnants.

Radnorscolex had rows of sharp teeth and hooks on its head, which it would have used to anchor itself to the ground and drag its body forward to move.

Despite being a predator, analysis suggests it only grew to be around 8cm long.

The researchers said Radnorscolex belongs to a group of extinct worm-like animals known as Palaeoscolecids.

They were wiped out completely around 400 million years ago due to rapid climate and sea level change.

The findings are published in the journal Papers in Palaeontology.

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