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Favorite Living Fossil?



The favorite dinosaur question, and more specifically an answer that someone 
gave to it, stirred once again my interest in those survivors from bygone 
ages, the "living fossils."

Personally, my favorite has always been Limulus polyphemus, the horseshoe 
crab.  I grew up on the New Jersey coast, and saw them coming ashore for 
mating every spring.  I also saw the slaughter that senseless people 
subjected them to, and heard the fantastic stories about how dangerous they 
were, waiting in the shallows to impale the unsuspecting bather with their 
long spike-like tails.  Needless to say, I quickly grew to champion these 
harmless survivors from the distant past.

As I grew a bit older and began keeping aquaria, I occasionally would collect 
young horseshoe crabs and keep them in a marine tank.  They are fascinating 
to watch, marching around the bottom, or kicking up and swimming upside-down, 
their shell assuming a boat-like configuration, and the legs becoming banks 
of oars.

Occasionally I would spot some freshly laid eggs, like miniature crystal 
balls, with the tiny yellowish embryos rolling around inside.  I would take a 
few home and hatch them, and keep the young, who look for all the world like 
trilobites, for a couple of moults, watching them develop diminutive tails 
and take on more of the adult shape and coloration, before taking them back 
to the shore and setting them free.

Other favorite living fossils of mine are the tuatara, the cycad, and the 
ginkgo, but Limulus far outstrips these.

My challenge of the week is for members of this list to name their favorite 
living fossils, with a bit of explanation as well, please!  :)


Skip Dahlgren
Applications Programmer, Office of Educational Development
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Phone: 501/296-1087; FAX: 501/686-7053
e-mail: sdahlgren@liblan.uams.edu; bcsskip@aol.com
-ex-archaeologist; lifelong afficionado of dinosaurs and their latter-day kin
"Cross-platform computing is much safer than downhill!"  :)