The World's Oldest Lobster

110 million years old

Perhaps this is the only food item that we could recognize in a time travel back to the dinosaur era.

Researchers have found in Mexico the oldest lobster fossil in the world. The 4.7 inches (12 cm) long fossil was dated as being 110 million years old, some 20 million years older than the previously found fossil lobster. This means early Cretaceous, in the middle of the Dinosaur era.

About 120 million years ago Africa was only splitting off from the Americas and by 110 million years ago the Atlantic was just a narrow channel. The shell and legs of the fossil spiny lobsters are well preserved in the mud fossil sediments in the southern Mexican state of Chapas.

"This lobster that we found in Chapas belongs to the genus that is in Africa today," said geologist Francisco Javier Vega of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

"This isn't a surprise because at that time, 120 million years ago, Africa and America were relatively close. It's very likely that this genus of lobster originated here." he explained.

Species isolated on two remote continents often evolve differently, that's why current American lobsters differ a lot from the African ones. The juvenile fossil lobster was encountered among other fossils in a quarry in the tiny town of El Espinal.

"The region could be where the evolution of modern lobsters began."

"The juvenile "Palinurus palaceosi" fossil, dug up in 1995 along with petrified remains of fish, crustaceans and insects, is one of the best preserved lobster fossils in the world and the first found in the Americas," Vega said.

"Practically 90 % of this specimen's body has been preserved. It was buried in this microscopic mud (and) has very fine morphological details," he said.

The analysis and dating of the fossil took Vega's team about ten years of work.

"The important message that we can give is that the evolution of these groups of crustaceans needs to be reviewed, since the specialists of the world thought that it started much later. We could call them living fossils, since they have had a consistent morphologic pattern throughout many millions of years." added Vera.


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