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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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Department of Paleobiology

Opabinia regalis (unknown affinity)

Opabinia

This creature with its five eyes is a strange looking one indeed. Wielding a long flexible proboscis tipped with grasping spines, its reconstructed image was greeted with laughter as a pretty good joke when first presented at a scientific meeting in 1972. The strange-looking reconstruction was soon confirmed, and this creature remains one of the oddities of the Burgess Shale fauna. Opabinia is thought to have lived in the soft sediment on the seabed, although it presumably could have swum after prey using its side lobes. On the bottom, the proboscis could have plunged into sand burrows after worms. Sizes ranged up to three inches, plus that unique, amazing one inch proboscis!

Superficially, Opabinia resembles a crustacean (crusta = hard outer surface or shell), like a shrimp or a lobster, but lacks important, distinguishing details. It remains unassigned to any other extinct or currently living, major group.

Opabinia
  • Opabinia

Opabinia regalis (OH-pah-BIN-knee-ah ree-GAL-is). Literally, King Opabin, after a mountain pass called Opabin (a local Indian word meaning cone-shaped), that lies between Mt. Hungabee and Mt. Biddle.


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