Fossils of 425m-year-old tiny shrimp-like creatures discovered

Last Updated: Fri, Dec 14, 2012 07:30 hrs

An international team of researchers have discovered remains of a tiny animal, which was preserved for 425 million years in rocks located in what is now the U.K.

The creature-related to crabs, lobsters and shrimp-is an ostracod, or a type of crustacean sometimes known as seed shrimp.

It represents a new species and has been named Pauline avibella, in memory of the late wife of David Siveter, who led the research project.

The 0.4-inch-long animal was found, not only with its shell, but also with its soft parts-body, limbs, eyes, gills and digestive system.

"The two ostracod specimens discovered represent a genus and species new to science, named Pauline avibella," Discovery News quoted Siveter, of the University of Leicester Department of Geology, as saying in a press release.

"The genus is named in honor of a special person and avibella means 'beautiful bird,' so-named because of the fancied resemblance of a prominent feature of the shell to the wing of a bird," he stated.

The discovery of the tiny shelled animal was made in Herefordshire, Welsh Borderland. The rocks at the site date to a time when southern Britain was a sea area on a small continent situated in warm, southerly subtropical latitudes. The ostracods and associated marine animals living there were covered by a fall of volcanic ash that preserved them frozen in 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. The find is important because it is one of only a handful preserving the fossilized soft-tissues of ostracods," Siveter said.

The fossils were reconstructed virtually, by using a technique that involves grinding each specimen down, layer by layer, and then photographing it at each stage. It took 500 such "slices" to create the image of the species.

The specimens of the extremely rare species have been described in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B. (ANI)

More from Sify: