Thursday, October 9, 2008

Giant Shrimp Were the First Communal Species

525 million years ago, the first community activity emerged in populations of shrimp-like creatures.

This is according to an Anglo-Chinese expedition into the Chengjiang Lagerst├Ątte in Yunnan, China. It is one of the world's richest Cambrian fossil grounds.

The creatures have been found in chains of up to 20 linked individuals, created when one animal would insert its tail into the shell of an animal immediately behind it. Paleontologists have found only one example of the species not so linked.

This is the first evidence of communal behavior ever discovered, but it remains unclear to researchers exactly why the ancient animals linked up in this way. It has been suggested that the fossils are also the earliest evidence of a migration ever discovered, as the chains may have been a way of establishing safety in numbers while on the move.

However, Oxford Professor Derek Siveter cautions, “It’s still a bit of a mystery and there doesn’t seem to be a direct comparison with any living animal.”

(thanks to for the image)