10 Living Fossils

11 Aug 2016 08:15 1,320
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From the rare deep sea goblin shark, to the tiny hula painted frog, here are 10 Living Fossils !

Fig Wasps -- Here’s an insect that suffered from a case of mistaken identity. In the 1920s, a fig wasp fossil dated 34 million years old was found, but incorrectly catalogued as an ant. When the fossil was re-analyzed in 2010

The Nautilus -- No, we’re not talking about Captain Nemo’s ship, or exercise equipment. This Nautilus is a marine mollusk that has basically stayed the same for the past half-billion years, give or take. These creatures first appeared during the late Cambrian period and later became a group of sea predators. They’re the last remaining cephalopods with a bony body structure that externalizes as a shell… unlike octopus and squid, their distant relatives. The nautilus is actually closer to cephalopods that first appeared 500 million years ago than the more modern creatures that showed up some 100 million years later

The Hoatzin (hwat-seen) -- These birds engender some debate because their evolutionary tree seems to be missing a few branches … so to speak. About the size of a pheasant, they usually have a total length of 26 inches and are usually found in swamps and mangroves of South America’s Amazon and Orinoco Delta. Debate about the animal stems in part from certain characteristics that aren’t found in other birds … the chicks of the Hoatzin have claws at the ends of their wings, which helps them to climb up and cling to trees. Because the creature is so distinct, it’s actually been given its own family. Genetic research conducted in 2015 revealed the Hoatzin to be the sole surviving member of birds that flew off in their own direction some 64 million years ago.

So we’ll admit it up front … this picture is photoshopped. The lady in the green pants has been seen in the same pose in that same exhibit with different animals digitally inserted in the display window. That said, it seems to be an alligator snapping turtle the lady is looking at. Maybe she’s fascinated by being face to face with a living fossil. With their beaklike jaws, spiked shells and thick scaled tails, they still look like prehistoric creatures … and are often referred to as ‘the dinosaurs of the turtle world.’ This reptile is one of the heaviest freshwater turtles on the planet, weighing around 176 lbs on average with a carapace, or shell length of 31 inches. The biggest-ever alligator snapping turtle was supposedly found in Kansas and weighed 403 lbs, but the claim was never verified. They’re one of North America’s largest freshwater turtles, with life spans up to 100 years! Given these animals have only one natural predator, the century-mark might be attainable. But that one predator is us. Humans capture these animals for their meat and shells … that has led to alligator snapping turtles being listed as a threatened species.

Goblin Shark -- No wonder they put a good, old-fashioned scare into people … Goblin Sharks are ancient deep sea creatures, the last remaining member of of a family around 125 million years feetold. It’s easily identified by its pink skin, long, flat snout, and its powerful jaws, which can essentially pop out of its mouth and tear into their prey with its razor sharp teeth. The whole process looks like something from one of those “Alien” movies. They stay shrouded in mystery, since they prefer ice cold waters at depths up to 4300 feet. Think you’d like to run into one?

Crocodilia (krok-a-dee-lee-ah) -- This is an order of mostly large, semiaquatic predatory reptiles that date back almost 84 million years ago to the late Cretaceous Period. As you might expect, this order includes crocodiles, alligators and various caiman (kay-man) families. The animals in this order are usually solidly built with elongated flattened snouts with ears, eyes and nostrils found at the tops of their heads. Other common characteristics include thick skin covered in scales, peg-like teeth and a powerful bite, and they’re largely carnivorous. Crocodilians can range in size from the smallest species, Cuvier’s Dwarf Caiman which grows under 5 feet long … to the largest species, the fearsome Saltwater Crocodile … which can measure up to 23 feet and weigh up to 2600 lbs. Of all living reptiles, this animal is the biggest. This apex predator is the most widely distributed of any modern croc, found from eastern India to southeast Asia to northern Australia. They’re considered the most dangerous living crocodilians to humans … and with the strongest bite force ever recorded, it’s no wonder why!

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