Unique exceptionally preserved fossil named in honour of Sir David Attenborough
An international team of scientists led by our University has discovered a new 430 million-year-old fossil and has named it in honour of Sir David Attenborough – who grew up on the University campus.
The fossil is described as ‘exceptionally well preserved in three-dimensions’ - complete with the soft-parts of the animal, such as legs, eyes and very delicate antennae. The fossil has been determined as an ancient crustacean new to science - a distant relative of the living lobsters, shrimps and crabs.
The find comes from volcanic ash deposits that accumulated in a marine setting in what is now Herefordshire in the Welsh Borderland.Professor David Siveter of the Department of Geology made the discovery working alongside researchers from the Universities of Oxford, Imperial College London and Yale, USA.
Professor Siveter said: “Such a well-preserved fossil is exciting, and this particular one is a unique example of its kind in the fossil record, and so we can establish it as a new species of a new genus.”
The fossil is named Cascolus ravitis in honour of Sir David, who grew up on University College Leicester campus (the forerunner of the University), in celebration of his 90th birthday. Cascolus is derived from castrum meaning ‘stronghold’ and colus, ‘dwelling in’, alluding to the Old English source for the surname Attenborough; while ‘ravitis” is a combination of Ratae - the Roman name for Leicester - ‘vita’, life, and ‘commeatis’, a messenger.
Sir David Attenborough said: “The biggest compliment that a biologist or palaeontologist can pay to another one is to name a fossil in his honour and I take this as a very great compliment. I was once a scientist so I’m very honoured and flattered that the Professor should say such nice things about me now.”
The discovery has been covered by the world media, including TIME magazine, the Telegraph and the Daily Mail, CBBC Newsround and it was a top science story on the BBC. The discovery also trended on Twitter in the United Kingdom.
The fossil specimen has been reconstructed as a virtual fossil by 3D computer modeling, below: