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Opabinia - a 500m-year-old creature with five eyes

State Darwin Museum

State Darwin Museum
Moscow, Russia

This small marine animal lived around 508 million years ago, during the Cambrian period. It was found in the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale in Canada.

The opabinia’s segmented body makes it part of the group of invertebrate animals known as arthropods.

But the opabinia had bodily features that made it unlike any modern arthropod. It had a v-shaped, double fan tail, and scientists think it had two pairs of legs on each segment - the upper pair held gills on for respiration, and the lower pair were used for walking.

The opabinia’s most unusual characteristic was its head - it had 5 eyes, and a long, striped proboscis that resembled a vacuum cleaner hose or an elephant’s trunk, with a claw-like structure at the end. Scientists aren’t sure if the opabinia had any limbs, aside from its strange proboscis.

The opabinia’s mouth was under its head, behind the proboscis, and pointed backwards.

It’s likely that the opabinia lived on the seabed collecting tiny food fragments with its proboscis (it probably didn’t have teeth to chew with) and passing it into the mouth.

Opabinia could grow to 4-7 cm long.

3D model by E. Machnev, texturing by A. Akhtamzyan.


  • Title: Opabinia - a 500m-year-old creature with five eyes
  • Physical Dimensions: 4-7 cm.
  • Medium: 3D Reconstruction

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