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Fossil and Living Horseshoe Crabs

This part of the Fossil Surgery deals with the animals which I research in some detail- Horseshoe 'crabs' or xiphosurans. I studied these arthropods for my Ph.D qualification at the University of Manchester between 1992 and 1995.

Horseshoe crabs have been around in one guise or another for quite some time now, let's just say since the Lower Silurian for arguments sake. The earliest examples discovered date to about 435 million years old. Personally, I reckon they'll outlive that troublesome species Homo sapiens hands (or at least pincered feet) down. Why? Well, because they are good at what they do and they don't seem to have any intention of changing their mode of life or gross body morphology. This is why they are often refered to as 'Living fossils'.



The black and white photograph above is of an Upper Carboniferous horseshoe crab which lived almost 310 Million years ago in the pools, rivers and lakes where coal deposits were laid down.

This particular fossil is named Euproops rotundatus (Prestwich, 1840) and comes from strata of Westphalian B age in the West Midlands of England (Coseley).

In this series of pages, you will find links to xiphosuran sites, a working classification of the group and explanations of why and where they are or aren't preserved as fossils.

Site Created 1 May 1997; Modified 11 February 2008