NEW HAVEN, Conn. – He recently had a polar research vessel named in his honor. Now Sir David Attenborough, the famed British naturalist, also has an ancient shrimp as a namesake.
To mark Attenborough's 90th birthday, researchers from Yale University and universities in England named in his honor a distant relative of today's shrimp and lobster. The crustacean was identified from a 430-million-year-old imprint in volcanic ash found in what is now the English county of Herefordshire.
"It is wonderful to be able to name a remarkable fossil from the United Kingdom in honor of Sir David, who has done so much to promote the conservation of the Earth's biodiversity," said Derek Briggs, a Yale professor of geology and geophysics and a co-author of a paper on the crustacean in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Attenborough, a former BBC executive, is known for his documentary series including "Life on Earth." He was knighted in 1985 and turned 90 last May. Such is his standing in Britain that officials there christened as Sir David Attenborough a new polar research vessel that the public had voted to label Boaty McBoatface in a "name our ship" poll.
The fossil was preserved well enough for the researchers using 3D computer modeling to envision its legs, eyes and antennae. As a unique example of its kind in the fossil record, they were able to establish it as a new species, according to David Siveter of the University of Leicester, the first author of the study.
The fossil is named Cascolus ravitis. The first half of the name, Cascolus, is derived from Latin words that are equivalent to the Old English words comprising the name Attenborough. The second, ravitis, is derived from the Roman name for Leicester, in a nod to the University of Leicester campus where Attenborough grew up while his father served as a university administrator.
The paper's other co-authors are Derek Siveter and David Legg of Oxford University and Mark Sutton of Imperial College London.