220px-Ottoia burrowing.jpg
Name Ottoia
family Ottoiidae
Class Archaeopriapulida
Phylum Priapulida (Stem-Group)
Period Middle Cambrian 507-505 Million Years Ago (Wheeler - Burgess Shale)
Location Australia, British Columbia
Diet Carnivore
Length 8 cm

Ottoia is the most abundant priapulid of the Cambrian Burgess Shale formation of British Columbia. It is a stem-group p

Ottoia 3D

riapulid worm that averaged about 80 mm in length.

In the 1910's, they found Ottoia, Fieldia, Ancalagon (not named yet), Louisella and Selkirkia.

Only in 1938 did they find Selkirkia for the first time.

In 1977, they found more types of priapulid-like burrows from Selkirkia, Scolecofurca and Lecythioscopa even Ancalagon was named by Conway Morris.

Along with the other Cambrian priapulids Fieldia, Selkirkia, Louisella, Ancalagon, Scolecofurca, and Lecythioscopa, the organism was originally classified into a clade termed the archaeopriapulida, a stem group to the Priapulids

Ottoia Fossil

proper. However, the morphological similarity of these organisms to their modern cousins is remarkable, especially for the Burgess Shale, and their similarity to the modern genus Maccabeus suggests that they are in the Seticoronaria stem group, and thus are true crown-group priapulids. A phylogenetic analysis does not provide a great deal of resolution to the relationships between these basal worms.

Ottoia's thorny mouthparts were used to seize small prey and even members of it's own species.


Ottoia was an 8 cm (though some reached 15 cm) predatory worm that lived most of its life in burrows. Like most worms, it was round and lengthy, with no backbone. It also lived in small U-shaped burrows that it had dug in the sea floor, which it would also use as ambush hiding places. It lived in the Mid Cambrian, about 520 million years ago, and lived alongside invertebrates like Anomalocaris and Hallucigenia. One feature that seperated it from mos

Ottoia and Dinomischus

t worms is that it was a highly-active ambush predator towards snail-like mollusks. It had a round mouth piece towards its head that had 40 to 50 spikes on it, possibly for grasping onto struggling prey. The posterior end of Ottoia also had small hooks, which likely acted as anchors to hold itself in the ground. Fossil evidence also suggests that when needed, Ottoia was cannibalistic, and would kill and eat its own. They eat Waptias, Trilobites and Aysheaia. They maybe eat Fieldia (Because Fieldia was a small Priapulid worm of the Cambrian). They were preyed upon by Anomalocaris, Peytoia and Hurdia.

In Popular Culture

An Ottoia was eating a mollusc (In the picture in the Infobox) and got eaten by a Hurdia in the Website The Burgess Shale on Virtual Sea Odyssey on the Predators or Early Life Predators.

It was a major inspiration for the giant Priapulid flesh eating monsters in the 2005 Peter Jackson remake of King Kong (the ones living at the bottom of the cess pit)

In a National Geographic video an Ottoia appears along with Wiwaxias.

The Fog Worms from Primeval where inspired by Ottoia.

In the 1998 movie Deep Rising, the owner of the ship speculates that the creatures that have invaded the ship were a mutant form of Ottoia, but later it is revealed that these are just the tentacles of a larger, octopus-like creature.