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These 5 animals are living fossils

By Dhrubaa Ghosh,

Some animals have not changed much over time. Let’s look at some of them a little closely.

Crocodiles were fearsome predators that have munched upon everything from dinosaur to chicken.

Coined by Charles Darwin, the term ‘living fossils’ describe creatures that have stood the test of time, remaining largely unchanged for millions of years. It means they are so hardy that they don’t need to evolve much to survive. While scientists do not officially use the term to label a species, they have pointed out that some animals simply happen to be tougher. Let’s look at five of them.  

Crocodiles 
Crocs are scary, big, and have looked much the same for centuries. They were fearsome predators that have munched upon everything from dinosaur to chicken.  Descended from marine super-predators, they made their first dreaded appearance on this planet some 55 million years ago. Today, saltwater crocodiles are the largest of all living reptiles and are the largest terrestrial apex predators in the world. 

Horseshoe crabs 
Horseshoe crabs are creatures that started crawling on muddy ocean floors some 450 million years ago. They resemble other crustaceans, but they’re part of a subphylum called Chelicerata, more closely related to arachnids like spiders and scorpions. Having survived all these years, they are now falling in number as man encroaches on nature. Their habitat in Japan is getting destroyed by construction and shipping in Japan, and effects of global warming along the east coast of North America. 

Fig wasp  
Back in the 1920s, a 34 million-year-old fossil of a fig wasp was discovered, but incorrectly identified as a prehistoric ant. The fossil was re-analysed in 2010, revealing its true identity. This species still lives, barely changed for tens of millions of years. Remarkably, fig wasps and fig trees have been evolving together for over 60 million years!  

P. Palau Cave Eel 
Discovered in 2018 in a cave 35 meters underwater in the Republic of Palau, this fish looks barely like an eel. Analysis of the fish shows that it has evolved independently for over 200 million years, retaining a large head, short body, and collar-like gill openings. In fact, some of their anatomy is deemed to be older than ancient fossils! 

Komodo Dragon  
Most people would agree that no lizard in the world looks more prehistoric than a komodo dragon.  They can be traced back to about 40 million years. First seen in Asia, komodo dragons later migrated to Australia, where they grew into their current massive size. They are the largest and heaviest lizards in the world.

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