“Cannibal the animal” – the making of a monster

A hellish monstrosity of an animal – like a beastly entity taken straight out of your worst nightmare – has come to sculptural life. And it has Death Metal, primordial life and Alex Webster written all over it.

Last year, a new gigantic fossil polychaete worm – Websteroprion armstrongi – was discovered and unveiled to the world (Eriksson et al. 2017). The creature is an ancestor to the now-living, marine ‘Bobbit’ worms – ambush predators that hunt in stealth mode for octopuses and fish. The fossil species was discovered in 400 million years old rocks from the Devonian Period in Canada and was named in honour of mighty bass giant, Alex Webster, of Cannibal Corpse, Blotted Science and Conquering Dystopia. Now, this primordial animal has come to ‘life’ by the skilled hands of prehistoric sculpture artist extraordinaire Esben Horn, at his company 10 Tons (see Eriksson, 2014) in Copenhagen, Denmark, and assisted by me, who was lead author of the scientific study presenting the species. Since I reported on the discovery of W. armstrongi in Issue 50 of Deposits (Worm monstrosity – a giant extinct worm), I thought it would be a good idea to make a brief follow-up story on this new sculpture and show some images of the impressive creation.

Fig. 1. The monster sculpture in progress, with its ‘daddy’ model maker Esben Horn, who
also functions as a scale (Esben Horn is 1.85m tall). At this stage, the worm’s body has
been roughly sculptured out of Styrofoam and, alongside, the huge jaws still await several
adjustments. (Photo: Mats E Eriksson.)

Websteroprion armstrongi possessed the largest jaws recorded from the entire fossil record of these worms, reaching over one centimetre in length, while usually being in the millimetre-size range. Investigation of the relationship between body and jaw size suggested to the authors that this animal achieved a total body length in excess of a metre, which is comparable to that of modern ‘giant eunicid’ worm species. Whilst this is certainly impressive, we figured, why settle with big when you can go mega? Hence, the sculptural reconstruction of the animal measures over two and a half meters in its majestic height and shows the anterior (head) portion of the beast, as if it was emerging from the seafloor, jaws spread wide apart and awaiting a passing prey to be dragged down below and devoured. The final result almost brings to mind something from the cult flick Tremors (1990), which happens to be a favourite film of Horn’s.


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