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'Scissorhands' Ancient Lobster Named After Johnny Depp

May 16, 2013 02:03 PM EDT

A newly-identified, scissor-handed ancestor of ancient lobsters and scorpions has been named after its finder's favorite movie star: Johnny Depp.

"When I first saw the pair of isolated claws in the fossil records of this species I could not help but think of Edward Scissorhands," said David Legg who carried out the research of the 505 million year old fossil for his doctoral research at Imperial College London.

Legg named the specimen Kooteninchela deppi,  a nod to Johnny Depp and his role in the 1990 Tim Burton film "Edward Scossorhands," where Depp plays Edward, an artificial man with scissors for hands.

"Even the genus name, Kootenichela, includes the reference to this film as 'chela' is Latin for claws or scissors," Legg said in a press statement. "In truth, I am also a bit of a Depp fan and so what better way to honor the man than to immortalize him as an ancient creature that once roamed the sea?"

Johnny Depp's ancient namesake was tiny, only about four centimeters long, with millipede-like legs. It likely lived in shallow waters off the coasts of British Colombia, which was situated much closer to the equator 500 million years ago. The sea temperature would have been much hotter than it is today. Coral reefs had not yet been established and Kooteninchela deppi would have lived in an environment consisting of sponges.

The creature's scissor-like claws would have made it a hunter or scavenger, Legg said.

Kooteninchela deppi belongs to a group known as the "great-appendage" arthropods, or megacheirans, which refers to the enlarged pincer-like frontal claws that they share. The great-appendage arthropods are an early relation of common arthropods, which includes spiders, scorpions, centipedes, millipedes, insects and crabs.

"Just imagine it: the prawns covered in mayonnaise in your sandwich, the spider climbing up your wall and even the fly that has been banging into your window and annoyingly flying into your face are all descendants of Kooteninchela deppi," said Legg.

"Current estimates indicate that there are more than one million known insects and potentially 10 million more yet to be categorised, which potentially means that Kooteninchela Deppi has a huge family tree."

Leggs research is published in the Journal of Palaeontology. 

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