Answer Monday

Last week we looked at a pretty old, pretty big fossil. I suppose if you think on the dinosaur scale it wasn’t that big. But I’m more of a microbiologist, so bear with me—to me, any organism you have to measure in meters is huge. Readers had lots of ideas about what this creature might be, but only one person came close. That's because pinpoint identification of this critter continues to elude even the experts. Let's take a closer look:



The best I can tell you about this particular specimen is that it’s a Phyllocarid, but as all the Phyllocarid fanatics out there know, this hardly narrows things down.

Some firmer information. This particular fossil is rare both for its size and its composition. The organism was a pretty big Phyllocarid, and its degree of soft tissue preservation is unusual. Typically with Phyllocarids from this period, you only see the big hard shell at the front: not the long, trailing, relatively soft body. This specimen was found alongside many other currently unidentified fossils; a rich view into the sea of a time we can’t yet fully describe.

All mystery aside, what’s important to note is that this organism was a crustacean, and frankly, it looks like it was probably delicious. Picture a meter-long, prehistoric shrimp! Definitely the kind of organism we wish was still around today.

The winner this week? A reader who goes by the handle "gazzang". Congratulations, and thanks for playing! If you have a fossil you want to share, send your pictures to me at And if you need another fossil fix, check out the UIowa Palentology Repository, who we thank for this week's fossil!

Emily Schoerning
Short Bio

Emily Schoerning is the former Director of Community Organizing and Research at NCSE.
We can't afford to lose any time when it comes to the future of science education.

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