If you found the lack of horseshoe crabs named for "Star Wars" characters disturbing, here's some good news. A 245-million-year-old fossil has been named for Darth Vader, the Dark Lord of the Sith. Meet Vaderlimulus tricki.
It's not just an empty homage, either. The horseshoe crab's shell bares a striking resemblance to Darth Vader's helmet and that, in and of itself, is fairly notable.
Horseshoe crabs are incredible survivors. While only four species still exist, the creatures date back some 470 million years, making the ones that are still around something like living fossils. Regardless of the time period they're from, horseshoe crabs — which are more closely related to spiders than to crabs — tend to all look roughly the same. Even the four species that exist today haven't really evolved in millions of years.
Which is why Vaderlimulus tricki stands out just a little bit.
The fossil of the horseshoe crab that was christened Vaderlimulus tricki was discovered in Paris, Idaho, and it was profiled, appropriately enough, in the world's oldest palaeontological journal, Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie. The horseshoe crab was found in rocks that dated back to the Triassic, the first period of the Mesozoic era, more than 200 million years ago. According to a statement from the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, dinosaurs and mammals had just started their evolutionary development, but the horseshoe crabs were already ancient by then.
But Vaderlimulus tricki is special, compared to some of the other horseshoe crab fossils that have been unearthed. It has "unusual body proportions that give it an odd appearance," lead author Allan J. Lerner said in the statement.
An odd appearance that calls to mind Darth Vader.
Lerner and fellow scientists think that Vaderlimulus tricki belonged to the extinct Austrolimulidae family. This family of horseshoe crabs was expanding beyond the usual marine habitats to explore freshwater environments. To do so, however, Austrolimulidae family crabs had to adopt some modifications that gave them a "bizarre appearance by modern standards."
Perhaps inadvertently channeling one of the most powerful characters in popular culture 265 millions before it existed was just one way of survive.