Wednesday, May 24, 2006
French Scientists Find 'Living Fossil'
French scientists who explored the Coral Sea said Friday they discovered a new species of crustacean that was thought to have become extinct 60 million years ago.
The "living fossil," a female baptized Neoglyphea Neocaledonica, was discovered 1,312 feet under water during an expedition in the Chesterfield Islands, northwest of New Caledonia, the National Museum of Natural History and the Research Institute for Development said in a statement.
Another so-called living fossil from the Neoglyphea group was discovered in 1908 in the Philippines by the U.S. Albatross, a research vessel. It remained unidentified until 1975 when two French scientists from the natural history museum identified and named it: Neoglyphea Inopinata. More of the creatures were then found in expeditions to the Philippines between 1976 and 1984.
In October, marine biologist Philippe Bouchet and Bertrand Richer De Forges found the new species of the same living fossil group while trolling an undersea plateau in a remote area between Australia and New Caledonia.
Bouchet, in a telephone interview with The Associated Press, described the nearly 5-inch creature as "halfway between a shrimp and a mud lobster." Its huge eyes, reddish spots and thickset body distinguished it from the 1908 crustacean.
The huge eyes suggest that light plays a role in the behavior of the creature, which could actively hunt prey, Bouchet said.
With the Coral Sea discovery, "the group is less completely extinct than was thought," he said.
Beyond the intrinsic value of the discovery, the marine biologist said he had been working in the region for two decades before coming across the elusive creature, underscoring that "there are places on this planet incredibly remote and little explored."
The discovery "conveys a message that, in the first years of the 21st century, the exploration of planet Earth is not over," Bouchet said.