Opabinia is an extinct marine arthropod that lived during the Middle Cambrian period. Its unusual morphology includes a barbed proboscis, 5 stalked compound eyes, 15 imbricating biramous lobes that run the length of a segmented body which terminates in a fan-like tail.

Opabinia has proven hard to place within any existing class or order of creature.  It is now believed to be an early form of arthropod, possibly related to the equally unusual Anomalocaris and indirectly related to extant Tardigrades.

Opabinia is thought to have been a benthic scavenger but computer modelling suggests that despite its unusual appearance Opabinia was probably very agile and capable of evading predators whilst foraging about.

It is tempting to regard Opabinia and other long extinct creatures of the period as failed evolutionary 'experiments'.  However lifeforms tend to be abundant and stable until disrupted by such things as environmental change or predation. Species extinction tends to be brought about by external forces rather than any inherent 'design' fault.

It may be the case that Opabinia thrived for many millions of years without leaving any trace. The fossilised remains of such soft bodied creatures are so rare as to make it impossible to draw any clear conclusions. There are indications from other fine lagerstatten deposits around the world that soft bodied creatures did prosper alongside the harder shelled arthropods whose remains are more evident and that some lineages extended into the later Ordovician period. The collections of hard bodied fossils from around the world represent just a small fraction of the life that was present at any one time. 

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