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Rare fossil found in America

A small clam, known only from records imagesFound alive on a beach in Santa Barbara, California (America🇧🇷 Co-author of the study that discovered the animal, Jeff Goddard, a research associate at the University of California Santa Barbara’s Institute of Marine Sciences, said such discoveries are extremely rare, especially in a well-studied and well-known region.

In 2018, Goddard was searching for sea snails at Naples Point when he spotted a pair of tiny, translucent bivalves. According to the researcher, the shells were only 10 millimeters long, a really small one. As he took a closer look at the structures, Goddard realized he had never seen this species before.

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With good quality images at hand, Goddard ruled out the possibility of collecting them to study animals. However, from the photographs, he was able to identify the species’ taxonomic family. Paul Walendich-Scott, curator of malacology at Santa Barbara’s Museum of Natural History, announced a big surprise when he saw the images. “I’m familiar with this family of bivalves (Galeommatidae) along the coast of the United States. It’s something I’ve never seen before,” Valendich-Scott said.

In 2019, when Walendych-Scott personally found the specimen on the beach, he began working with Goddard on more thorough identification work. During the analyses, the two researchers were unable to determine from the records which species the animal belonged to. So, at first, they thought they were encountering a new creature.

Image: Look closely to see a small clam (bottom center) in the California ocean. Thanks to: Jeff Goddard

So the researchers decided to look for references in old records. Some information found in a fossil described in 1937 is consistent with characteristics of modern organisms. If scientists could prove it was the same animal, they would have found a living fossil!

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Clams can hide under rocks

With further research and consultation, Valentich-Scott concluded that they were the same species. “It was very remarkable,” he recalls. Small in size and enigmatic habitat, all this raises the question of how this tiny mollusk has escaped research for so long.

Goddard suspects these molluscs may have arrived on the U.S. West Coast as planktonic larvae transported from the south during ocean heat waves from 2014 to 2016. California coast.

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