Cameroceras: giant-size mollusk, with a diet of two meter-long sea scorpions
Cameroceras was first described in 1842. Today we know that it was the largest mollusk in history that dominated the world’s oceans hundreds of millions of years ago. It was a top predator. But what else is known about Cameroceras?
When Cameroceras was alive
It is an enormous cephalopod mollusk that existed in the Ordovician Period about 470 million years ago. There were no fishes then, but all the basic types of animals existed: all types of worms, coelenterates, thriving foraminifera (protozoans that had a shell), trilobites – the first representatives of arthropods, similar to moccasins – existed. Only the chordates were not present. At that time, all classes of mollusks (cephalopods, gastropods, bivalves) already existed. And Cephalopods were the dominant life form in all aspects.
Prehisotric mollusks with huge cone-like shells
Cameroceras (“chambered horn”) refers to a genus of giant orthoconic cephalopod. The generic name is a big garbage can for systematists. Sort of like the diagnosis “vegetovascular dystonia” in medicine, when the essence of the phenomenon is not clear, but it is necessary to designate it somehow. So, in any unclear situation the possessor of a huge cone-like shell will be referred to Cameroceras.
Modern mollusks are considered ancestors of cameroceras, but not by all scientists. Some scientists are of the opinion that all mollusks are descended from the ancestors – worm-like marine organisms, or more precisely – from ringworms. As proof, they cite the similarity of the larvae of many gastropod marine mollusks, as well as the larvae of polychaetes marine worms. In addition, some of the primitive mollusks have quite a great resemblance directly to the ringworms. Others believe that the mollusks are descended from the genus to which Cameroceras belongs. But this is not considered to be the case for most. Modern mollusks are considered ancestors of cameroceras, but not by all scientists.
What was the size of the Cameroceras
The most characteristic feature of this mollusk was a huge cone-shaped shell and tentacles for catching prey. The size ratio between the shell and the animal’s body was very large – the shell was up to 90% of the total length. Cameroceras was hiding in a shell up to 12 meters long. And its tentacles were short – no more than 1-2 meters.
What did Cameroceras eat
Judging by the enormous size of the cameroceros, it was a top predator. It is believed that the mollusk lived in the deep sea. But how the titanic creature searched for its prey is not clear. A common view is that its eyesight was not very good. But such an assumption looks rather strange, taking into account that most cephalopods are visually oriented predators, and some of them, in fact, have quite exceptional vision, in some aspects even better than that of vertebrates. And since no one has found fossilized eyes of cameroceras, the question remains open. No body, no case. But there is no doubt this giant was very voracious.
It is thought to have preyed on shellfish, large trilobites, and small cephalopods. At the base of the large tentacles with which it caught them, inside its mouth, was a rigid, keratinous beak capable of gnawing into the bodies of its victims. This beak could easily split the hard shells of other Orthoconians or the armored exoskeletons of sea scorpions. The largest of the latter reached up to 2 meters in length and were the second largest creatures after the cameroceros.
Fossilized shells of Cameroceros, that lived on Earth about 470 million years ago, have been found in Spain and in the territories of North and South America. Cameroceros became extinct 425 million years ago, meaning they successfully ruled the world’s oceans for nearly 50 million years.