A 365-Million-Year-Old Freshwater Community Reveals Morphological and Ecological Stasis in Branchiopod Crustaceans.Curr Biol 2016; 26(3):383-90CB
Branchiopod crustaceans are represented by fairy, tadpole, and clam shrimps (Anostraca, Notostraca, Laevicaudata, Spinicaudata), which typically inhabit temporary freshwater bodies, and water fleas (Cladoceromorpha), which live in all kinds of freshwater and occasionally marine environments [1, 2]. The earliest branchiopods occur in the Cambrian, where they are represented by complete body fossils from Sweden such as Rehbachiella kinnekullensis  and isolated mandibles preserved as small carbonaceous fossils [4-6] from Canada. The earliest known continental branchiopods are associated with hot spring environments  represented by the Early Devonian Rhynie Chert of Scotland (410 million years ago) and include possible stem-group or crown-group Anostraca, Notostraca, and clam shrimps or Cladoceromorpha [8-10], which differ morphologically from their modern counterparts [1, 2, 11]. Here we report the discovery of an ephemeral pool branchiopod community from the 365-million-year-old Strud locality of Belgium. It is characterized by new anostracans and spinicaudatans, closely resembling extant species, and the earliest notostracan, Strudops goldenbergi . These branchiopods released resting eggs into the sediment in a manner similar to their modern representatives [1, 2]. We infer that this reproductive strategy was critical to overcoming environmental constraints such as seasonal desiccation imposed by living on land. The pioneer colonization of ephemeral freshwater pools by branchiopods in the Devonian was followed by remarkable ecological and morphological stasis that persists to the present day.