Researchers from Glasgow University have discovered colonies of the small crustacean Triops cancriformis in mud from around the scottish nature reserve at Caerlaverock, Scotland.
Triops are members of the order notostraca and cancriformis first evolved approximately 220 million years ago in the late Triassic and haven’t changed in morphology much since, as shown by fossil examples, leading some to describe them as living fossils.
The creatures were discovered after the research team had dried out and then re-wetted a set of mud samples from the area. Triops cancriformis is in fact an endangered species as before now it had historically only ever been found in two locations, the first being a single pond in the New Forest, Hampshire, England, and the second in the Caerlaverock nature reserve which was discovered some six years ago.
Now however it appears that thanks to the animal’s unusual lifestyle, there may in fact be many colonies in and around those which are already known. The Triops life-cycle includes an egg stage, which is resitant to extended periods of drought and as such allows the creatures to survive even when the pools in which they live are ephemeral (seasonal or otherwise temporary). They can even re-establish populations if only one individual survives because they can reproduce by a process called autogamy (or self-fertilisation) as they are hermaphroditic organisms with both male and female reproductive organs.
This Story Features in PalaeoNews : Webisode 1 (28th July – 3rd Aug)
Sources and Related Articles:
- World’s oldest living creatures found in Scottish field (guardian.co.uk)
- ‘Ancient survivor’ (bbc.co.uk)