FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 05, 2017
Mary Ann Hatchitt
(Albuquerque, NM) -- A 245 million-year-old fossil horseshoe crab recently discovered in Idaho has been named Vaderlimulus because the animal’s head shield resembles the helmet worn by Darth Vader from the Star Wars film series. Paleontologists from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque (Allan J Lerner, Spencer G. Lucas) and the University of Colorado at Denver (Martin Lockley) just published a scientific article describing the extinct fossil horseshoe crab. Their findings were published in the latest issue of the German paleontological journal Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, which is the world’s oldest paleontological journal.
Vaderlimulus is the first North American fossil horseshoe crab from rocks of the Triassic Period. The Triassic was the first period of the Mesozoic Era (252 to 201 million years ago). Dinosaurs and mammals were just beginning their evolutionary development during the Triassic, but horseshoe crabs were already ancient by that time. Their fossil record dates back at least 470 million years ago, but fossils of horseshoe crabs are generally rare. When horseshoe crab fossils are found they are often new to science, as is the case with Vaderlimulus.
There are only four species of horseshoe crabs alive today, and their populations are decreasing. They are not true crabs but are more closely related to scorpions and spiders. Modern horseshoe crabs are often considered ‘living fossils’ due to having shown little apparent change in physical appearance over a vast period of geologic time.
“Vaderlimulus, however, has unusual body proportions that give it an odd appearance,” said lead author Allan J Lerner. This in part led the paleontological team to conclude that Vaderlimulus belonged to an extinct family, the Austrolimulidae. Members of this family were expanding their ecological range from marine into freshwater settings during the Triassic and often exhibit body modifications that provide them with a bizarre appearance by modern standards.
ATTACHED: 2017 Lerner, et. al: First Fossil Horseshoe Crab from the Triassic North America
About the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science: http://www.nmnaturalhistory.org. Established in 1986, the mission of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science is to preserve and interpret the distinctive natural and scientific heritage of our state through extraordinary collections, research, exhibits and programs designed to ignite a passion for lifelong learning. The NMMNHS offers exhibits, exhibitions, programs, and workshops in Paleontology, Earth Science, Natural Science, Gemology, is the Southwest’s largest repository for dinosaur fossils, and includes a Planetarium and a DynaTheater. A division of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, the Museum is open 7 days a week, from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. 1801 Mountain Road NW, northeast of Historic Old Town Plaza, Albuquerque, NM 87104, (505) 841-2800. Events, news releases and images about activities at the Museum of Natural History and Science and other in divisions of the Department of Cultural Affairs can be accessed at media.newmexicoculture.org.