How Long Have Lobsters Been on Earth?

How Long Have Lobsters Been on Earth?

Have you ever looked at a freshly cooked, hot, steaming lobster on your plate and asked yourself… “how did a (deliciously decadent and mouthwateringly indulgent) creature like this come to be?”

Actually, it’s a legitimate question: just how old are lobsters? They certainly look like they’re still from the prehistoric era with their fanned tails, spider-esque legs, enormous snapping claws, and those long, wiggly antennas.

As creatures of the deep blue sea, they’re shrouded in mystery and celebrated as one of America’s most exotic and treasured seafood delicacies. And they have a very long history on planet earth. Theoretically, our friend the lobster has an ancestral history that dates back over* 480 million years ago. And he was a mighty big fellow back then, too. Fossils of a lobster-like animal were discovered several years ago by paleontologists that fairly resembled a more streamlined-looking lobster. The fossils were unearthed near Morocco and estimated to have lived in the oceans of the area during the Ordovician prehistoric period. They were apparently the freakish predecessors to whales and crustaceans.

The animal was named Aegirocassis benmoulae** (say that fast three times!), after Mohamed Ben Moula, who was the fossil hunter from Morocco that made the discovery of the fossils. Aegirocassis, let’s call him “Aggy” for short, was a monster of a sea creature, but as looks can be deceiving, he was more of a gentle giant. As an arthropod (a part of the group that includes crabs, scorpions, spiders, and centipedes), Aggy was of gargantuan proportions, and at 7 feet long, was probably the king of the sea at the time (could you imagine feasting on a lobster today that was that long? ...No, neither can we).

In spite of Aggy’s immense size, he was a gentle giant so to speak. He wasn’t a predator like a shark, hunting other sea animals for food, but more like an eco-friendly, prehistoric water filter — filtering seawater to obtain food, primarily plankton.

Aggy was a bit of looker, aerodynamically speaking! He had two pairs of swim flaps running alongside both sides of his stretched outstretched trunk from what appears to be the base of his head, which resembled a torpedo, with a bulbous appendage underneath.*** And Aggy’s swim flaps loosely parallel the double-branched legs that make up today’s arthropods, which are distantly related to each other.

So, what does this say about our present-day friend (and delicacy), the lobster? It’s proof that arthropods are the most pervasive, diverse, long-lived, and thriving animal groups on Earth. And that’s good company to be in!