My favourite extinct monster is anomalocaris. Creatures during the Cambrian period were so strange looking. Which makes them interesting! Anomalocaris was basically a gigantic brine shrimp with an appetite for anything smaller than itself. Which was everything, because it was the largest animal in the world when it was alive!

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Guess I just always found it fascinating that half a billon years ago, Earth was essentially an alien planet. Things couldโ€™ve ended up very differently...

So probably the weirdest Cambrian creature was this little beast. It's called Opabinia.

About the size of a mouse, and probably a relative of anomalocaris. Opabinia is mostly unlike any other creature we've ever found on Earth. Five eyes and an odd little trunk with a grabby thing on the end. In an incredibly bizarre form of convergent evolution, it probably used this appendage to eat in much the same way an elephant uses its trunk!

Funnily, the closest living relative of opabinia is probably the tardigrade.

Tardigrades are tiny, near-microscopic invertebrates which are found all over the world. They're also famous for being incredibly resilient, being able to survive things which would kill most other animals instantly โ€“ including extremes of temperature and pressure, dehydration, air deprivation, and radiation exposure. In experiments, they've even survived brief exposure to space.

@InvaderXan I love the diverse weirdness of the Cambrian explosion. the Burgess Shale is just north of me, up in Canada, and I've been tempted to go up there several times--but I'm pretty sure they don't let amateurs like me wander around popping open bits of shale and looking for critters. XD

@troodon
You should go! I canโ€™t speak for Canada, but in the UK itโ€™s perfectly fine for amateurs to take a hammer and chisel and go looking for fossils. Iโ€™ve been several times. You never know what you might find inside those rocks!

@InvaderXan I've been reading Skeleton Keys by Brian Switek, which follows the evolution of bone, and he comes to the same conclusion of "life was fucking weird and nothing that we consider normal was inevitable or even likely"

@bedap
That seems like the only logical conclusion TBH. Which really makes me wonder how bizarre life could be on other planets. I have my suspicions it'll be simultaneously unbelievably strange and eerily familiar.

Thanks for the book recommendation too!

@InvaderXan how I would love to meet other planetary life. I worry that it might be so variable and strange that I may not even recognize it as such, no matter how much I prepare for that possibility.

@bedap Iโ€™ve spent a lot of time considering things like this. Even today, Earth is home to environments which are utterly alien compared to our everyday lives. And itโ€™s fascinating how evolution makes certain patterns recur. It makes me wonder if those patterns may recur even on other worlds.

Which reminds me, I really should do some writing...

@InvaderXan I wonder too. I bet many of the more common recurrences would be unexpected.

What are you writing? Is it exobiology related? ๐Ÿ˜

@bedap Among other things, far future epic solarpunk space opera. โ˜€๏ธ

@InvaderXan I love it! I've been wanting to write a solarpunk story for so long, but I just can't nail down a world or a plot ๐Ÿ˜‚

@bedap
Three pieces of advice:

โ€ข Keep a text file on your phone, or carry a notepad. Write down any and all ideas you have, even if you think theyโ€™re no good

โ€ข Daydream. It helps with ideas!

โ€ข Think about story as well as plot. Consider what themes youโ€™d like to write about and how to portray them

@InvaderXan @bedap

*sighs*
:>

Sometimes I feel sad that all the potential different kinds of life will never be expressed. That we're just heading down a narrower and narrower path with every hundred million years.. (which is slow by most standards I'll admit XD)

But the potential is there just as much! It's just the competition that keeps it from happening!

*petition for a wildlife project*
We just have to make a safe space for them :>
...and wait a few million years XD

The Recambrian!

@InvaderXan
LOVE tardigrades! Even before Star Trek gave them their deserved moment in the spotlight.

ST: DISCO spoilers? Season 1 

ST: DISCO spoilers? Season 1 

ST: DISCO spoilers? Season 1 

ST: DISCO spoilers? Season 1 

@daylight
All in time, friend. Whatever you can, whenever you can. I'm just... excitable, I guess. :P

@InvaderXan
The tardigrade is sort of the mascot of Amsterdam's excellent museum (zoo?) of microbes, Micropia.

micropia.nl/en/

@anne
OMG thereโ€™s a zoo of microbes?? ๐Ÿ˜ฎโœจ

@InvaderXan
It's excellent - most of the exhibits are stereo microscopes looking at live cultures prepared in the lab (you can watch). The microscopes are servo-controlled so the public can follow microbes around and focus up and down but can't wreck the machine.

@anne Oh, thatโ€™s delightful. I need to visit this place!

@InvaderXan
Next to the zoo and about two blocks from the botanical garden.

@g
Lovely little things. I really wonder what they were actually like!

@wu_lee
Oh, interesting. Late Carboniferous. Interesting little beastie, I hadn't heard of it before!

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Sunbeam City is a Libertarian Socialist solarpunk instance. It is ran democratically by a cooperative of like-minded individuals.