450-million-year-old fossil found in Ontario | Article

New species was the size of your index finger


  • A new fossil was found not far from Toronto, Ontario.

  • The fossil is from a species of arthropod that lived 450 million years ago.

  • The fossil marks the discovery of a brand new species that helps scientists understand evolution.

  • Read on to find out more. ⬇️ ⬇️ ⬇️

An ancient creature that died nearly half a billion years ago was recently found less than a two hour’s drive from Toronto, Ontario.

The discovery of the fossil was announced on March 24, in the Journal of Paleontology.

It’s now on display at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

The fossil marks the discovery of a new species of marine arthropod, like lobster and millipedes and is named Tomlinsonus dimitrii.

It is helping scientists fill in gaps in our understanding of arthropod evolution.

How the discovery happened

The fossil was discovered near Brechin, which is northeast of Toronto, and near Lake Simcoe.

Because of its unique geography, the area has long been a producer of great fossils.

At the time when the creature lived nearly half a billion years ago, most of Ontario was covered in shallow oceans.

Organisms like the one recently discovered lived on the seafloor and were regularly hit by storms that left them covered in rock sediments.

After that happened, they’d turn into fossils.

Ontario-based paleontologist George Kampouris says that Brechin has produced “world-class fossils” for more than 100 years.

Scientists pose at the stone quarry in Brechin, Ontario, where the fossil was found. (Image credit: Royal Ontario Museum)

The discovery was made during excavations at a stone quarry owned by an Ontario company called the Tomlinson Group.

To show their appreciation for the company’s support, the scientists named the new species after the company – hence, Tomlinsonus dimitri.

What does the species look like?

The newly discovered species is one wacky-looking creature.

“Tomlinsonus dimitri has an ornate head shield adorned with remarkable feather-like spines,” said Joe Moysiuk, a PhD candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Toronto.

It is the size of an index finger, and belongs to an extinct group of soft-bodied arthropods called marrellomorphs.

A line drawing of the Tomlinsonus dimitri next to its original fossil. (Image credit: Royal Ontario Museum)

“This strange-looking animal probably negotiated the muddy seafloor using a pair of exceptionally long, stilt-like limbs,” said Moysiuk.

Why is this a big deal?

Scientists who excavated the fossil were trying to find new, scientifically important fossils for the Royal Ontario Museum.

Jean-Bernard Caron, one of the co-authors of the study, said that “the marrellomorph is perhaps the single greatest find.”

That’s because it’s hard to find fossilized soft-bodied animals. Normally only the hard parts of an organism, like its bones, can last over time during fossilization.

Caron said that finding the fossil was “a huge surprise” because soft-bodied species of its kind have never been found in that area of ​​North America.

The discovery also fills a huge gap in helping us understand how these types of arthropods have evolved over time, according to the study authors.

The Ontario section of the Dawn of Life gallery, which displays more fossils from Brechin, Ontario. (Image credit: Royal Ontario Museum)

The Tomlinsonus dimitrii is on display at the Royal Ontario Museum’s Willner Madge Gallery, along with a collection of other Ontario fossils.

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With files from the Royal Ontario Museum

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