Horseshoe crabs are pretty strange looking creatures, with large domed shells covering insect-like bodies, but as odd as they are they’ve actually managed to stick around for a long, long time. The creatures have been on Earth in one form or another for hundreds of millions of years, and researchers have just discovered a 245-million-year-old fossil of one subspecies that looks a whole lot like an iconic sci-fi villain.
The newly discovered crab has been officially named Vaderlimulus thanks to its uncanny resemblance to the Star Wars bad guy’s headgear. Its wide, swooping shell is smaller with more a more severe angle and sharper points than modern day horseshoe crabs, and it’s a perfect fit for a galaxy far, far away.
The crab’s long-fossilized remains were discovered in present day Idaho, but when it was still scuttling along its shoreline home the world looked a whole lot different. The coast of the supercontinent Pangea included a portion of what is now Idaho, in case you were wondering why an oceanic creature was discovered so far inland.
Unlike many horseshoe crab fossils discovered in the past, Vaderlimulus dates to the Triassic Period. It’s the first such crab fossil found from that period, with the vast majority dating to an even earlier time period. The discovery was made by paleontologists from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and the University of Colorado in Denver, and the research was published in a German paleontological journal.
“Dinosaurs and mammals were just beginning their evolutionary development during the Triassic, but horseshoe crabs were already ancient by that time,” the museum explains in a press release. “Their fossil record dates back at least 470 million years ago, but fossils of horseshoe crabs are generally rare. When horseshoe crab fossils are found they are often new to science, as is the case with Vaderlimulus.”
“Vaderlimulus, however, has unusual body proportions that give it an odd appearance,” lead author Allan J Lerner noted.
Despite the naming convention, horseshoe crabs aren’t actually considered crabs at all. In fact, they relate more closely with spiders than they do with modern day crabs. This one, however, might have a little bit of Sith in it as well.