The giant Cambrian form Anomalocaris is considered to have been a raptoral predator of trilobites. However, doubt has been raised about its ability to successfully predate on strongly biomineralized forms (durophagy). A specimen of the trilobite Naraoia from the Early Cambrian Emu Bay Shale of South Australia represents the earliest direct body fossil evidence of predation on nonbiomineralized individuals. Analysis of arthropod cuticle rheology and examination of the injuries inflicted on this specimen suggest that Anomalocaris was the predator. It appears that some anomalocaridids actively utilized their large frontal appendages to rapidly flex trilobites during predation. Comparison with predation damage from mineralized trilobites and coprolites suggests that this method of flexing allowed durophagous predation. The presence in the Early Cambrian of durophagous, nonbiomineralized predators may have important implications for the role of predation pressure in the acquisition of mineralized cuticles and the rise of enrollment in trilobites. Variation in the frontal appendages of anomalocaridids indicates that niche partitioning within the genus was well established by the late Early Cambrian.
- Geological Society of America