Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Oldest Horseshoe Crab Fossil Found, 445 Million Years Old

Date:
February 8, 2008
Source:
Royal Ontario Museum
Summary:
Few modern animals are as deserving of the title "living fossil" as the lowly horseshoe crab. Seemingly unchanged since before the Age of Dinosaurs, these venerable sea creatures can now claim a history that reaches back almost half-a billion years. Scientists have revealed rare new horseshoe crab fossils from 445 million year-old Ordovician age rocks in central and northern Manitoba, which are about 100 million years older than any previously known forms.

Lunataspis aurora - fossil paratype specimen (about 25 mm wide) beside the dried carapace of a young modern horseshoe crab.
Credit: Left image courtesy of G. Young, The Manitoba Museum; right, D. Rudkin, Royal Ontario Museum

Few modern animals are as deserving of the title “living fossil” as the lowly horseshoe crab. Seemingly unchanged since before the Age of Dinosaurs, these venerable sea creatures can now claim a history that reaches back almost half-a billion years.

Related Articles


In a collaborative research article published recently in the British journal Palaeontology, a team of Canadian scientists revealed rare new horseshoe crab fossils from 445 million year-old Ordovician age rocks in central and northern Manitoba, which are about 100 million years older than any previously known forms.

Palaeontologist Dave Rudkin from the Royal Ontario Museum, with colleagues Dr. Graham Young of The Manitoba Museum (Winnipeg) and Dr. Godfrey Nowlan at the Geological Survey of Canada (Calgary), gave their remarkable new fossils the scientific name Lunataspis aurora, meaning literally “crescent moon shield of the dawn” in reference to their shape, geological age and northerly discovery sites. Although they are more “primitive” in several aspects than other known horseshoe crabs, their resemblance to living forms is unmistakable.

The fossil horseshoe crabs were recovered in the course of fieldwork studies on ancient tropical seashore deposits, providing yet another important link to their modern descendants that are today found along warmer seashores of the eastern United States and the Indian Ocean.

This is particularly significant, explains Rudkin. “Understanding how horseshoe crabs adapted to this ecological niche very early on, and then remained there through thick and thin, can give us insights into how ocean and shoreline ecosystems have developed through deep time.”

Today, marine shorelines worldwide are being threatened by human activity, and although some horseshoe crab populations are endangered, their enviably long record on Earth indicates that they have successfully weathered many previous crises, including the mass extinction that saw the demise of the dinosaurs and many other life forms 65 million years ago.

“We do need to be concerned about horseshoe crabs and many of the other unusual life forms found on marine shores,” said Dr. Young. “Nevertheless, we can also be mildly optimistic that some of these things have demonstrated a toughness that may allow them to survive our abuse of these environments.”

Living horseshoe crabs are extensively studied, especially in the fields of ecology and medical research. The exciting discovery of these unusual early fossil relatives adds a new introductory chapter to their remarkable story.

David Rudkin is Assistant Curator in the Department of Natural History (Palaeobiology) at the Royal Ontario Museum, and holds an appointment to the Department of Geology, University of Toronto, as a Lecturer in palaeontology. Rudkin joined the former Department of Invertebrate Palaeontology at the ROM in 1975 and began working on fossils from the Burgess Shale in British Columbia.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Royal Ontario Museum. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Royal Ontario Museum. "Oldest Horseshoe Crab Fossil Found, 445 Million Years Old." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080207135801.htm>.
Royal Ontario Museum. (2008, February 8). Oldest Horseshoe Crab Fossil Found, 445 Million Years Old. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080207135801.htm
Royal Ontario Museum. "Oldest Horseshoe Crab Fossil Found, 445 Million Years Old." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080207135801.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

AP (Dec. 17, 2014) Stanford University wants to unlock the secrets of the player piano. Researchers are restoring and studying self-playing pianos and the music rolls that recorded major composers performing their own work. (Dec. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Newsy (Dec. 16, 2014) A group of scientists looked at the genetics behind the domestication of the horse and showed how human manipulation changed horses' DNA. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

AFP (Dec. 16, 2014) A collection of rare manuscripts by composers Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet are due to go on sale at auction on December 17. Duration: 00:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 15, 2014) Researchers are looking to the past to gain a clearer picture of what the future holds for ice in the Arctic. A project to analyse and digitize ship logs dating back to the 1850's aims to lengthen the timeline of recorded ice data. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins