Sea Creature Turns Up as Oldest Male Fossil

Shrimp-Like Animal Close in Appearance to Modern Cousins

A computer representation of a 425-million-year-old water flea fossil.

A computer recreation of a 425-million-year-old ostracode fossil. The image is a side view of the critter, with its head at the left. The colors represent some of the soft tissues that were preserved. The gray area marks the creature's shell. Science hide caption

itoggle caption Science

Scientists in England have come across an astonishingly well-preserved fossil of a shrimp-like animal. They say what's amazing about it is that even its soft body parts have been imprinted in rock for 425 million years. That makes it far older than the dinosaurs.

In fact, its discoverers say it's so well preserved, they can even determine the creature's gender — it's a male. But the big surprise, as NPR's Richard Harris reports, is how little the pea-sized creature has changed over the eons.

Ostracodes are among the most successful animals on Earth, with 30,000 known species of the crustacean, living and extinct. A new report, published in the current issue of Science Magazine describes the male ostracode fossil found near England's border with Wales.



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