His story will touch you, even though he can’t. In May of this year the Journal of Paleontology published a paper detailing a strange looking creature that lived 505 million years ago in what were then the shallow, tropical oceans of Canada. Dr. David Legg from the Imperial College in London has named his prickly find Kootenchela deppi.

K. deppi was a megacheiran or “great appendage” arthropod. This means its most attention-grabbing features were its lobster-like front claws. However, instead of pincers, these claws each featured three long, sharp, boney protrusions, which bring to mind nothing so much as the bladed appendages of Tim Burton’s classic character Edward Scissorhands played by Johnny Depp.

The arthropod was only about 4 centimeters long but had a body made up of at least twenty nine segments and moved upon scores of thin legs. It carried its compound eyes on top of short stalks or peduncles and roamed the ocean floor during the late Cambrian period.

What scientists learn from its fossils will help them understand literally millions of modern day creatures. Kootenchela was a common ancestor of many present-day arthropods including crustaceans, scorpions, centipedes, and even insects.


David Legg
Kootenchela deppi fossils were analyzed by Legg and colleagues.

It may have used its frightening claws to skewer prey, or like Edward Scissorhands, it may have been a gentler creature, using its claws merely to probe the ocean floor in search of food as a scavenger.

The designation “deppi” was no coincidence. Dr. Legg remarked: “When I first saw the pair of isolated claws in the fossil records of this species I could not help but think of Edward Scissorhands. Even the genus name, Kootenichela, includes the reference to this film as ‘chela’ is Latin for claws or scissors. In truth, I am also a bit of a Depp fan and so what better way to honor the man than to immortalize him as an ancient creature that once roamed the sea?”

Find the research detailed in the Journal of Paleontology, May 2013.

The Paleontological Research Institution, Ithaca, New York, is pleased to sponsor Paleontology content for This View of Life. Founded in 1932, PRI has outstanding programs in research, collections, and publications, and is a national leader in development of informal Earth science education resources for educators and the general public.

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Published On: July 23, 2013

One Comment

  • M S Dinakar says:

    Dr David Legg’s idea of making Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands immortal is appropriate for one more reason. One of the mystifying things is that human imaginations have always had a counterpart in the ancient biological organisms, in full or in part, one way or the other.

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