A team of scientists from the National Autonomous University of Mexico claim they have identified the world’s oldest lobster fossil. Believed to be 120 million years old, 20 million years older than specimens previously found, the fossil is 12 cm long and its shell and legs have been perfectly preserved by the mud in the southern state of Chiapas where it was found.
The Palinurus palaceosi fossil was actually dug up, together with petrified remains of fish, crustaceans and insects, in 1995 but the Mexican scientists only established its age in 2005, publishing their findings in November 2006 and publicizing them recently. It is the first such fossil to be found in the Americas.
The lobster belongs to the genus that exists in Africa today, but this is not surprising as South America and Africa are believed to have split into two continents around 120 million years ago. Since then species have evolved differently on the two continents, hence modern differences between American lobsters and their African cousins.
Today lobsters are big business as seafood and forming a global industry that net annual trade worth an estimated US$1.8 billion. Lobster is normally purchased live and is at its best eaten fresh. The meat, mostly in the tail and the two front claws, can be eaten simply boiled or steamed. It can also be used to make soup, bisque and salads.