245-million-year old fossil looks like Darth Vader, scientists say

Darth Vader may be Luke Skywalker's father (spoiler alert), but he could also be the twin of a horseshoe crab that lived 245 million years ago.

Paleontologists from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque and the University of Colorado at Denver have published a scientific article describing the extinct fossil horseshoe crab and its uncanny resemblance to the headgear Anakin Skywalker wears when he becomes Vader.

Known as Vaderlimulus, the horseshoe crab "has unusual body proportions that give it an odd appearance,” lead author Allan J. Lerner said in a press release.

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The team, which includes Lerner, Spencer G. Lucas and Martin Lockley, concluded that Vaderlimulus belonged to an extinct part of the horseshoe family known as Austrolimulidae. Vaderlimulus is the first North American fossil horseshoe crab from rocks of the Triassic Period, which ended 201 million years ago, when dinosaurs and mamals had just started their evolutionary development.

Horseshoe crabs have been around for at least 470 million years, according to fossil records, but fossils are rare, making Vaderlimulus a special case.

Horseshoe crabs are not actual crabs, as they are part of the Limulidae family and are more closely related to scorpions and spiders. There are only four species left on the planet, with population numbers dwindling. 

The four types include the mangrove horseshoe crab (found in Southeast Asia), the Atlantic horseshoe crab (found in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic coastline), the Tachypleus gigas, (Southeast and East Asia) and the Tachypleus tridentatus, which is located in Southeast and East Asia.

The fossils were found in present-day Idaho, which was part of the supercontinent Pangea.

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