Pauline avibella 425m-year-old fossil 'a new species'

Computer generated reconstruction of 425m-year-old fossil Computer generated reconstruction of 425m-year-old fossil named Pauline avibella

Related Stories

Fossils discovered of 425-million-year-old tiny shrimp-like creatures are of a species new to science, say experts.

Found in Herefordshire, the invertebrates were preserved by volcanic ash when the UK had a subtropical climate.

The fossils show the animals' shells and soft tissues, such as eyes and limbs, the Leicester experts say.

Prof David Siveter said the species, named Pauline avibella in honour of his late wife, was a rare discovery.

'Beautiful bird'

Our ancient planet

Planet Earth's geology - a coastal, rocky scene
  • At 425 million years old, these ostracods originate from the earth's Silurian period
  • It was when coral reefs first appeared and melting glacial formations meant a rise in sea levels
  • There was also a rapid spread of jawless fish, and the first known freshwater fish also emerged

Source: BBC Nature

"The find is important because it is one of only a handful preserving the fossilised soft-tissues of ostracods [type of crustacean]," he said.

"[The fossils] allow unparalleled insight into the ancient biology, community structure and evolution of animals."

Avibella was chosen because it means beautiful bird, reflecting the fact the shell of these creatures looks like a wing to those that have studied it.

The genus name, Pauline, was a personal touch for Prof David Siveter.

"My wife gave me enormous support and it's a tribute to her," he said. "I can stand up at scientific meetings and talk about Pauline."

The 1cm-long fossils were found in rocks at a site in Herefordshire, near the Welsh border.

'Salami slicing'

The site has been known for about 10 years and once the University of Leicester team visited the area, they realised there was a "treasure trove" of ancient fossils.

The professor said the process of extracting the fossils from the limestone rock was like "salami slicing".

Each specimen was ground down, with photographs taken at each stage, until they were completely destroyed.

The resulting 500 images were then stitched together using a computer to create "a virtual fossil".

"What you have in the image is a real animal, warts and all," said Prof Siveter.

"It might look strange but you've got relatives of these ostracods in your ponds, in lakes, rivers and the oceans."

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More England stories


Features & Analysis

  • TricycleTreasure trove

    The lost property shop stuffed with diamonds, bikes... and a leg

  • Boris Nemtsov'I loved Nemtsov'

    A murder in an atmosphere of hatred and intolerance

  • Image of George from Tube CrushTube crush

    How London's male commuters set Chinese hearts racing

  • INDHUJA'Dorky tomboy'

    The Indian who attracted proposals through honesty

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • Audi R8Best in show

    BBC Autos takes a look at 10 of the most eye-catching new cars at the 2015 Geneva motor show


  • Kinetic sculpture violinClick Watch

    The "kinetic sculpture" that can replicate digital files and play them on a violin

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.