Temporal range: Early Cambrian to Middle Cambrian (Stage 3 to Guzhangian)
A restoration of Anomalocaris
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Dinocridida
Order: Radiodonta
Genus: Anomalocaris
Wagner, 1859
Species: A.canadensis
Binomial name
Anomalocaris canadensis
Whiteaves, 1892

Anomalocaris (Ancient Greek ἀνώμᾰλος anṓmalos + καρίς karís) "unlike other shrimp" or "abnormal shrimp") is an extinct genus of anomalocaridid, which are, in turn, thought to be closely related to the arthropods along with Opabinia and Marrella. Other lobopods includes Hallucigenia, Opabinia and Aysheaia. Other carnivores of the Burgess Shale include priapulids (Stem-Group), Hurdia, Peytoia and Opabinia.

Anomalocaris Anatomy-1

Anomalocaris reached a length of 6 1/2 ft (2 m), the size of an adult human.


Anomalocaris is thought to have been an apex predator, though it ate much softer prey items, presumably worms and basal vertebrates. It propelled itself through the water by undulating the flexible lobes on the sides of its body. Each lobe sloped below the one more posterior to it, and this overlapping allowed the lobes on each side of the body to act as a single "fin", maximising the swimming efficiency. The construction of a remote-controlled model showed this mode of swimming to be intrinsically stable,meaning that.


Anomalocaris need not have had a complex brain to cope with balancing while swimming. The lateral lobes overlapped. The widest part of the body was on the third to fifth lobe; it narrowed towards its tail, and had at least 11 lobes in total. The more posterior lobes are difficult to discriminate, making an accurate count difficult. Anomalocaris had a large head, a single pair of large, possibly compound eyes, and an unusual, disk-like mouth. The mouth was composed of 32 overlapping plates, four large and 28 small, resembling a pineapple ring with the center replaced by a series of serrated prongs. The mouth could constrict to crush prey, but never completely close, and the tooth-like prongs continued down the walls of the gullet. Two large 'arms' (up to seven inches in length when extended) with barb-like spikes were positioned in front of the mouth. The tail was large and fan-shaped, and along with undulations of the lobes, was probably used to propel the creature.


Anomalocaris Fossil

Cambrian waters. Stacked lamella of what were probably gills attached to the top of each lobe.

For the time in which it lived Anomalocaris was a truly gigantic creature, reaching lengths of up to one meter.

Anomalocaris had a cosmopolitan distribution in Cambrian seas, and has been found from early

Anomalocaris 2

Walking with Monsters Anomalocaris

to mid Cambrian deposits from Canada, China, Utah and Australia, to name but a few. Peytoia and Hurdia are other anomalocarids.

A long-standing view holds that Anomalocaris fed on hard-bodied animals, including trilobites. While its mid-gut glands strongly suggest a predatory lifestyle, its ability to penetrate mineralised shells has come under fire in recent years.

Anomalocaris reconstruction

Some Cambrian trilobites have been found with round or W-shaped "bite" marks, which were identified in shape with the mouthparts of Anomalocaris. Opabinia could also fed on other creatures like Aysheaia and Hallucigenia but not Anomalocaris or a another giant predator like Hurdia with it's long gut. They are the biggest animals of the Burgess Shale and bigger than other Early and Middle Cambrian animals.

In the Media[]

  • The 1st presence of Anomalocaris was seen in Digimon Digital Monsters as Scorpiomon. It’s appearance is based on Anomalocaris, but in life the odd shrimp doesn’t have a tail stinger.
  • Anomalocaris made its 1st appearance in The 1st episode of the 2001 Six part PBS NATURE Program Triumph of Life "The Four Billion Year War"
  • Anomalocaris made its appearance in both the 2nd episode of another 2001 PBS Documentary miniseries EVOLUTION “Great Transformation”.
  • Anomalocaris was in the documentary Walking with Monsters, which is made from the same creators of Walking with Dinosaurs. In this documentary, it takes us back in time to the Cambrian when this fearsome predator ruled, and it shows us how it hunted and lived.
  • Anomalocaris also appeared in the first episode of the PBS NOVA special, Australia's First Four Billion Years, where it was seen eating a trilobite.
  • It also appeared in Jurassic Park: Builder as an aquatic animal.
  • Anomalocaris will appear in Toei Animation series called Jurassic!.
  • Anomalocaris appears as a summonable creature in the Scribblenauts series.
  • The Teratopia animals Anomalocaris, Peytoia, and Laggania is inspired by inaccurate portrayals of this animal.
  • Anomalocaris made an appearance in the Roblox game called "Dinosaur Simulator." Unlocked by using the promo code, "CAMBRIANEXPLOSION." When you do that, go to the store then buy Onchopristis, and then it should be there with Onchopristis's other skins.
  • Anomalocaris made a recent appearance in the new Netflix Original Documentary Series, Life On Our Planet, where one tries to eat a trilobite, but is unsuccessful.