Census of Marine Life researchers got a big surprise when they trawled up this "Jurassic shrimp."
The scientists were documenting life on undersea mountains, or seamounts, in the Coral Sea off northeast Australia when they found this specimen (Australia map). It belongs to a species thought to have died out some 50 million years ago.
Caught at a depth of 1,300 feet (400 meters), the new species is described as a "living fossil" by survey member Bertrand Richer de Forges, a marine biologist based in nearby Noumea, New Caledonia.
Neoglyphea neocaledonica belongs to an ancient group of crustaceans that were "well known from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods [roughly 200 to 65 million years ago] and were supposed to be extinct," de Forges said.
The find follows the discovery of a related species in Philippine waters in the 1970s.
De Forges compares the new catch to the discovery of a second species of the primitive coelacanth in Indonesia in 1997. This so-called fossil fish was first rediscovered off South Africa in 1938, showing it hadn't gone extinct in the Cretaceous period as previously thought.
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Photograph by B. Richer de Forges ©2006, Courtesy of the Census of Marine Life