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Lars Fields/Royal Ontario Museum

This Ancient Shrimp With a Mustache Used Its Legs to Disembowel Prey

Meet the hipster of shrimp.

Scientists have known about an ancient, tiny shrimp with a weird mustache for about 100 years but just now got around to describing it scientifically.

Why the hold up? Maybe because it's just that strange.

Lars Fields/Royal Ontario Museum

To start, they were very fast swimmers, using little paddles under their bodies to motor through the water. Moving under their bodies, they kind of look like thumb-sized motorboats.

They had shrimp-like tails and spiny legs, too, as if the weird paddles weren't enough for getting around. They also have kind of a hat over their body, and a pair of antennae that look like a mustache.

Researchers believe these mustache-twirling villains also used their spiky legs to stab and disembowel prey.


Unfortunately, no one has discovered a fossil that shows the contents of a little shrimp's stomach, so we don't know exactly what they were disemboweling, but maybe that's OK.

These critters terrorized the ocean around 500 million years ago.

The first fossil was discovered way back in 1909, and thousands have been found since then, but no one made an official description of them in scientific literature.


Finally, an international group of scientists became somehow charmed by this strange shrimp. They analyzed 1,800 samples in order to at last put together a paper on the Waptia fieldensis.

Besides being kind of brutal predators, the little shrimp are pretty important to evolution, too. They're a key part of arthropods, the biggest phylum of animals alive today, which includes insects, lobsters and spiders.

Scientists were surprised to find that parts of their mouth were connected in a way that's today only seen on land arthropods, like centipedes and insects, suggesting that they were an important link between these species.

And with that 'stache, maybe they were critical to hipster evolution, too. Maybe the scientists will get into that in their next paper.


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