A horseshoe crab fossil discovered along the Bay of Fundy shoreline by a Grade 4 student eight years ago turns out to have been quite the find — it's the first of a specific species of horseshoe crab ever found in the world.

Researchers in New Mexico who authenticated the nickle-sized specimen say it's about 350 to 360 million years old. 

"Having this is very exciting for Nova Scotia and for Blue Beach," said Sonja Wood, one of the curators at the Blue Beach Fossil Museum in Hantsport — about an hour outside Halifax.

Species named after curator

Sonja Wood Blue Fossil Museum Horseshoe Crab

Sonja Wood holding the horseshoe crab that was named after her. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

"'Blue Beach sits at the earliest carboniferous time period. This is one of the most beautiful little horseshoe crabs that's ever shown up here."

The new species — known as Paleolimulus woodae — was named after Wood. 

"This is the oldest representative of today's group of horseshoe crabs. It was just named by our world's top experts and I'm pretty honoured to have been recognized for our efforts ... this is a wonderful gesture from our colleagues in New Mexico." 

A missing link

Horseshoe Crab

The fossil is the oldest representative of today's group of horseshoe crabs. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Wood remembers the day the fossil was found. She recalls being immediately excited by the find.

"It certainly adds a piece of the missing link to the puzzle of course because now we have this showing up at Blue Beach, which dates it back a few million years older than we anticipated."

Details of the find are in the May edition of the German paleontology journal Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie — the world's oldest paleontology journal.