Photo in the News: Oldest Lobster Fossil Found in Mexico

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May 3, 2007—It's definitely too late for the melted butter.

This fossil crustacean found in Mexico's Chiapas state in 1995 has now been confirmed as the world's oldest lobster, according to scientists at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) (map of Chiapas).

The ancient animal has been dated at 110 million years old—about 20 million years older than previously known specimens—UNAM scientists announced in a press release on Monday.

"This lobster that we found in Chiapas belongs to the genus that is in Africa today," UNAM geologist Francisco Javier Vega Vera told the Reuters news service.

"This isn't a surprise, because at that time … Africa and America were relatively close." The two continents are believed to have started splitting apart about 120 million years ago.

The juvenile fossil lobster, dubbed Palinurus palaceosi, was among the remains of several ancient fish and crustaceans found in a quarry in the tiny town of El Espinal. Vera says the region could be where the evolution of modern lobsters began.

"The important message that we can give is that the evolution of these groups of crustaceans needs to be reviewed, since the specialists of the world thought that it started much later," Vera said in the UNAM press release.

"We could call them living fossils, since they have had a consistent morphologic pattern throughout many millions of years."

—Victoria Jaggard

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