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New Species Of Ancient Sea Creature Discovered And Named After President Obama

Jun 20, 2018 10:17 PM EDT
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Two new sea creatures who lived 580 to 540 million years ago have officially been designated names from a pair of very distinguished public figures.

Obamus coronatus, named after former president Barack Obama, and Attenborites janeae, named after beloved naturalist Sir David Attenborough, are both ancient creatures that were discovered in South Australia's Flinders Ranges region by a research team from the University of California-Riverside.

Obama and Attenborough were reportedly chosen for their interest and contributions in the field of science. Jane Fargher, who is the co-owner of the site where the fossils were found, also received a nod with janae, according to USA Today.

Introducing Obamus, Attenborites

The newly discovered animals, officially introduced in papers published in the Australian Journal of Earth Sciences, are both part of the Ediacara biota, which is a group of soft-bodied animals that existed within the Ediacaran period.

UC Riverside describes Obamus as a disc-shaped creature that's about 0.5 to 2 cm (0.2 to 0.79 inches) across. It has raised spiral grooves on its surface. This animal appears to be immobile and is instead embedded onto the ocean mat.

On the other hand, the Attenborites is an ovoid that's even smaller at just half a centimeter across, featuring internal ridges and grooves that makes it appear similar to a raisin.

"The two genera that we identified are a new body plan, unlike anything else that has been described," lead author Mary Droser says in a statement. "We have been seeing evidence for these animals for quite a long time, but it took us a while to verify that they are animals within their own rights and not part of another animal."

Droser adds that the fossil bed where they found the pair of creatures was incredibly well-preserved.

"I've been working in this region for 30 years, and I've never seen such a beautifully preserved bed with so many high quality and rare specimens, including Obamus and Attenborites," she says, explaining how the team is hoping the discovery will help the Flinders Ranges achieve a World Heritage designation.

The UC Riverside group dubbed the rich fossil bed as "Alice's Restaurant Bed" after the Arlo Guthrie song that went, "You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant."

The Presidential Namesake

It's definitely a tickle to get ancient animals dubbed with your name, but Obamus is not the first time an animal has been named after the former president. It turns out, Obama became a popular name for scientists to adopt.

Washington Post notes that a team named a parasitic worm Baracktrema obamai, which kills turtles, in 2016. Later in the same year, a marine biologist named a newly discovered species of colorful fish, Tosanoides obama.

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