Opabinia regalis was first described in 1912 by its discoverer Charles Walcott. Because of its clearly unique morphology, 505 million year old Opabinia became one of the most iconic fossils from the Burgess Shale. With such an unusual body, speculation about its affinities and lifestyle soon followed.
It wasn’t until a major redescription in 1975 that Opabinia was revealed to be truly one of the most enigmatic of all fossils. It was so unusual, in fact, that when palaeontologist Harry Whittington, an expert on the Burgess Shale, showed an early version of his reconstruction in a meeting of palaeontologists in 1972, the whole room burst out laughing!