Fossil marine creature said new to science

Dec. 12, 2012 at 5:10 PM
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LEICESTER, England, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- An exceptionally well-preserved fossil of an ancient animal related to crabs, lobsters and shrimps is a species new to science, British paleontologists say.

Scientists from several British universities along with colleagues from Yale University have reported their discovery of a new and scientifically important fossil species of a creature known as an ostracod in the journal Proceedings of The Royal Society B.

The discovered species is special, they said, because it is exceptionally well preserved, complete with not only its shell but also the soft parts of its body, limbs, eyes and gills, a release from the University of Leicester said Wednesday.

Such discoveries of complete organisms are extremely rare in the fossil record, the scientists said.

The discovery of the tiny shelled arthropod was made in 425-million-year-old rocks in Herefordshire in Britain, they said, an area that was a warm, shallow sea in the Silurian period of geological time.

"Ostracods are the most abundant fossil arthropods, occurring ubiquitously as bivalved shells in rocks of the last 490 million years, and are common in most water environments today," Leicester researcher David Siveter said.

"The find is important because it is one of only a handful preserving the fossilized soft-tissues of ostracods."

"The preservation of soft-parts of animals is a very rare occurrence in the fossil record and allows unparalleled insight into the ancient biology, community structure and evolution of animals -- key facts that that would otherwise be lost to science," he said.

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