Scientists have discovered the fossil remains of a 430-million-year-old crustacean previously unknown to science – a proto-shrimp that they’re naming in honor of British naturalist and television personality David Attenborough. The new species, described in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, could shed fresh light on crustacean evolution.
“Our analysis suggests that it is an early representative of the line leading ultimately to modern shrimps, lobsters and crabs,” study co-author Derek Briggs, a paleontologist at Yale University, said in an email.
Cascolus ravitis may not sound like the name of the 90-year-old Attenborough, famed for his work on “Life on Earth” and other well-known documentary series, but look closely: Cascolus, a blend of the Latin castrum (“stronghold”) and colus (“dwelling in”), is inspired by the naturalist’s surname, which has Middle and Old English roots.
The species name, ravitis, is also partly in honor of the University of Leicester campus, where Attenborough grew up while his father served as principal of what was then called University College Leicester. Ravitis is a blend of the Latin Ratae (the Romans’ name for Leicester), vita (“life”), and commeatis (“messenger”). The blend appears to allude to the broadcaster, who, in his instantly recognizable voice, has long communicated the wonders of the natural world to the public.
“We thought this would be a way of recognizing his remarkable career creating and presenting natural history programs which have reached millions around the world,” Briggs said.