From: Shelley Alingas, Wildscreen USA, , More from this Affiliate
Published June 13, 2011 08:44 AM

Spotlight on: Living Fossils

Living fossils can be a foreign concept to some, as well as an oxymoron, but they do exist! Living fossils describe living species that look similar to ancient species that have only been seen through fossil records. Many of these living fossils have survived major extinction events and have ancestral lineage that can date back millions of years. Living fossils are fascinating creatures to learn about – check out some of them below.


A fish with legs?

This amazing specimen was dubbed the 'most important zoological find of the century', and the species is a member of an ancient lineage that has been around for over 360 million years. Coelacanth were thought to have died out with the dinosaurs, but were miraculously rediscovered by scientists in 1938.

They can be found on every continent except for Antarctica, spanning about 2m long and living in depths of 150m to 700m. Sometimes they can be spotted swimming in a "headstand" posture which scientists attribute to their sensitivity to light or electromagnetic fields in submarine caves. There is also ongoing controversy as to whether coelacanths are the closest living relatives of the first species to walk on land.

Sand digging helps support the ecosystem?

Horseshoe crabs may not be aware of this, but every time they dig for food, they are aerating the substrate, the earthy material that exists in the bottom of a marine habitat, resulting in a higher level of species richness. Their eggs are also a vital source of food for sea turtles, alligators and fish. Species almost identical to the horseshoe crab existed 230 million years ago in the Triassic period.

Despite their name, horseshoe crabs are not crabs at all. They are a part of the arachnid family (spiders, scorpions, ticks, and mites), possessing six appendages to help them walk and eat. They also have blue copper-based blood!

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