Crustaceans Extend Fossil Record of Copepods
A KU Biodiversity Institute scientist and his colleagues have found that copepod crustaceans, an extremely abundant sea dwelling creature, can be traced back to the late Carboniferous age –188 million years earlier than previously thought.
The finding, reported this week in the online science journal Nature Communications, helps to explain the origins of a creature that underpins the world’s marine ecosystems and is a sensitive bio-indicator of local and global climate change.
Despite copepod crustaceans outnumbering every other group of multicellular animals on Earth, little is known about their origins. This is because they fossilize poorly due to their small size and fragility. Currently, fossils of these crustaceans have been found from as early as the Cretaceous period around 115 million years ago, but nothing previous to this.
Paul Selden, director of the KU Paleontological Institute, and colleagues now extend the fossil record of copepods with the finding of fossil fragments in Oman. The fragments are found in bitumen – a sticky, black material made up of condensed hydrocarbons – which the authors believe originated from an oil seep which flowed into a sub-glacial lake around 303 million years ago. The bitumen appears to have preserved the copepods well and even muscle fibres can be seen within the fragments.