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  • Saturday, March 21, 2009

    Small Monsters

    THEN AND NOW
    Denizens Of The Deep
    and, a montana record too
    .. From the Burgess Shale in the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia comes news of a predator that lived 505 million years ago.
    .. The fossil was first described about 100 years ago. It's fragmentary nature left it to rest in the 'unremarkable' category for nearly a century. It was misidentified as everything from a jelly fish to a sea cucumber.
    .. Recent re visitations of the fossil, in the dusty drawers of the Smithsonian Institution, and a new specimen, have revealed it to be a monster predator from the Cambrian.
    .. This thing was a giant among the life of the time and is, in fact, a member of the largest living group of animals the arthropods.
    .. The Hurdia, (sp), probably fed on other, smaller predators and marine worms. Details of this monster were published in yesterday's issue of Science; a synopsis is available HERE. Although size doesn't matter, this thing may have reached a whopping 16 - 18 inches.
    .. A similar predator was recently caught by a Montana fisherman. The Pygmy Whitefish, Prosopium coulteri, (Salmonidae), tied a state record and weighed in at 3.7 ounces.
    .. These predators usually grow to sizes in the 6 - 8 inch range and are preyed upon by other fish.
    .. The Pygmy Whitefish usually preys mainly on zooplankton. A July-Dec. Flathead Lake study showed these foods to be important; Daphnia Thorata-70%, Epischura-13%, Organic debris-10%, and chironomid larvae-6%.
    .. The invasive shrimp found in many of Montana's cold lakes are now a new food source for the Pygmy. They are growing larger because of the change in diet and we can look for the state record to be broken again in the near future.
    .. The current record has stood the test of time, as the previous record was set in 2005. You can read the whole thrilling story of the battle with the fish in the Montana Standard.
    .. The fisher that caught the monster has revealed the technique for taking the trophy: a glow hook and maggot. Eric Tullett, of Kallispell, Montana is justly proud of the catch.
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    .. Pygmy Whitefish images courtesy of Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks.