Fossil Remains Of 430-Million-Year-Old Crustacean Named After Sir David Attenborough

By Erin Schroeder | Mar 23, 2017 12:10 AM EDT

A team of international scientists have discovered the fossil remains of 430-million-year-old crustacean. The team was led by the University of Leicester.

The fossil remains are of an ancient crustacean family and has been named after Sir David Attenborough, a renowned British naturalist and television personality. Attenborough is famed for his legendary documentary series "Life on Earth."

What's In A Name?

It was in celebration of Attenborough's 90th birthday that the fossil was named as Cascolus ravitis. Though this very name may not seem to have any resemblance to Attenborough, the term Cascolus is derived from the word castrum meaning "stronghold." The word colus means "dwelling in." The name has been inspired from the naturalists' surname, which has its roots in Old English.

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And the specie name ravitis is an amalgamation of two words Ratae and commeatis. Both have their origin in Latin. Ratae is the Roman name for Leicester, which means "vita" or "life," and commeatis means "a messenger." The species name is linked to the University of Leicester as Attenborough spent most of his childhood on the university campus.

Attenborough's Response

Attenborough was greatly moved by this gesture and said that the greatest gift a biologist or palaeontologist can pay to another one is by naming a fossil in their honor.

"I take this as a very great compliment. I was once a scientist so I'm very honoured and flattered that the Professor should say such nice things about me now," said Attenborough.

Derek Briggs a palaeontologist at Yale University, and also the coauthor of this study, stated that it was a wonderful thing that a remarkable fossil from the UK was named in honor of Sir David Attenborough. Briggs feels that he has done a lot to promote the conservation and preservation of the Earth's biodiversity.

The Ancient Crustacean

The fossils were discovered from volcanic ash deposits that collected over time in a marine setting, which is now known as Herefordshire and is in the Welsh Borderland.

From the remains, it is revealed that this fossil is a distant relative of the living shrimps, lobsters, and crabs. The fossil of the proto-shrimp is small in size with the entire specimen measuring just 8.9 millimeters long.

The widest part of the ancient crustacean was its head shield, which measured 1.3 millimeters in width. The body was long and segmented with several two-branched limbs or "biramous." It was observed that the fossil had several rows of strange, petal-shaped appendages, which the scientists believed probably helped the animal swim and breathe under water.

Are They Taken Care Of?

The specimen of the crustacean, Cascolus ravitis, has been reconstructed as a virtual fossil by three dimensional computer modeling and is well preserved. The three dimensional figure is also complete with all the soft-parts of the animal, like eyes, legs, and its delicate antennae.

The report of the discovery was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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