Introduction to the Onychophora
"Velvet worms" with an ancient history indeed
The average resident of the Northern Hemisphere is probably
not familiar with the Onychophora; they are restricted to forest
regions of South America, Africa, the Caribbean, and Oceania.
Shy creatures, able to hide in incredibly tight crevices, these
"velvet worms" (about ninety living species known)
are rarely seen even in their natural
habitat. Yet onychophorans are of great interest to
biologists, because they seem to be related to
and give us an idea of what the ancestors of the arthropods may have
been like. Although they are rare as fossils, a number that have
been found from the
These fossils show that abundant marine relatives of the
Onychophora flourished in the seas 520 million years ago.
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