Quirks & Quarks

450-million-year-old Nursery in the Sea

The oldest known fossil of a tiny crustacean has been found perfectly preserved with eggs within its shell....

Ostracods are tiny crustaceans related to lobsters, shrimps and clams. They are found in oceans, lakes, rivers and ponds. Ostracods are well known in the fossil record, but a recent discovery is remarkable, both for its age and degree of preservation. The new fossil - found in pyrite rocks in New York - is 450 million years old, making it the oldest known. But when paleontologists, including Dr. David Siveter, from the Department of Geology at the University of Leicester in England, studied the fossil, they found two unexpected things. One was fossilized soft body parts, including limbs. This is rare because usually only the shell fossilizes. The other was eggs preserved in the incubation stage within the ostracod shell. This points to the fact that ostracod parental care has not changed in millions of years.

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