Fossil of Prehistoric 'Vampire Squid' Named After US President Biden
© REUTERS / K. Whalen/Christopher Whalen/HandoutArtistic reconstruction of the cephalopod species Syllipsimopodi bideni, whose fossil was discovered in Montana, inhabiting a marine environment beneath a tropical bay 328 million year old during the Carboniferous Period
© REUTERS / K. Whalen/Christopher Whalen/Handout
This is a very rare fossil of a creature that used to inhabit the tropical waters that surrounded North America more than 320 million years ago, scientists say.
Researchers at the American Museum of Natural History recently stumbled upon a fossilised body of the torpedo-shaped creature, which was dubbed Syllipsimopodi bideni and was added to the list of species named in honour of US presidents.
Christopher Whalen and his colleague Neil Landman found the creature on a museum shelf where it had been stored following its discovery in the Bear Gulch Lagerstätte formation in Montana more than thirty years ago. According to them, the discovered creature swam in the tropical waters of North America some 328 million years ago.
© REUTERS / AMNH/S. THURSTONA fossil of the cephalopod species Syllipsimopodi bideni - the oldest-known relative of today's octopuses - discovered in Montana and dating to 328 million years ago during the Carboniferous Period
A fossil of the cephalopod species Syllipsimopodi bideni - the oldest-known relative of today's octopuses - discovered in Montana and dating to 328 million years ago during the Carboniferous Period
© REUTERS / AMNH/S. THURSTON
The ancient animal had ten arms, two of them longer that the other eight, which is similar to squid and cuttlefish. This feature inspired the name of the creature's genus - Syllipsimopodi, which is the Greek for "prehensile foot". According to Whalen, the finding offers insight into the earliest stage of the existence of vampyropods - one of three groups of soft-bodied cephalopods containing remnants of internal shells.
"Having an organism this early on that's lost the shell on the vampyropod side indicates that they developed an alternative means of buoyancy control relatively early in their evolutionary history," Dr Whalen said.
The researcher explained why he decided to name the creature after Biden.
"I submitted my paper fairly soon after his inauguration … and it seemed like a natural way to celebrate that moment...I was particularly encouraged by some of the plans that he put forward to counter climate change," Whalen told ABC.
The ancient squid-like creature is not the first species to be named after recent presidents. The previous US President Donald Trump has Dermophis donaldtrumpi, a blind amphibian that buries its head in the sand, while Barack Obama has at least nine species named after him including an extinct lizard (Obamadon gracilis).
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