Montana fossil reveals octopus ancestors lived earlier than period of dinosaurs

Scientists have discovered the oldest recognized ancestor of octopuses – an roughly 330 million-year-old fossil unearthed in Montana.

The researchers concluded the traditional creature lived tens of millions of years sooner than beforehand believed, that means that octopuses originated earlier than the period of dinosaurs.

FILE – An octopus swims on the zoo in Frankfurt, Germany on Friday, Nov. 25, 2005. In analysis printed Tuesday, March 8, 2022, within the journal Nature Communications, scientists have described the oldest recognized fossil ancestor of octopuses – an roughly 330 million-year-old specimen present in Montana. (AP Picture/Bernd Kammerer, File)


The 4.7-inch (12-centimeter) fossil has 10 limbs — fashionable octopuses have eight — every with two rows of suckers. It most likely lived in a shallow, tropical ocean bay.

“It’s totally uncommon to seek out mushy tissue fossils, besides in a couple of locations,” stated Mike Vecchione, a Smithsonian Nationwide Museum of Pure Historical past zoologist who was not concerned within the research. “This can be a very thrilling discovering. It pushes again the ancestry a lot farther than beforehand recognized.”

The specimen was found in Montana’s Bear Gulch limestone formation and donated to the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada in 1988.

For many years, the fossil sat neglected in a drawer whereas scientists studied fossil sharks and different finds from the location. However then paleontologists observed the ten tiny limbs encased in limestone.

The well-preserved fossil additionally “reveals some proof of an ink sac,” most likely used to squirt out a darkish liquid cloak to assist to evade predators, similar to fashionable octopuses, stated Christopher Whalen, an American Museum of Pure Historical past paleontologist and co-author of the research printed Tuesday within the journal Nature Communications.

The creature, a vampyropod, was possible the ancestor of each fashionable octopuses and vampire squid, a confusingly named marine critter that’s a lot nearer to an octopus than a squid. Beforehand, the “oldest recognized definitive” vampyropod was from round 240 million years in the past, the authors stated.

The scientists named the fossil Syllipsimopodi bideni, after President Joe Biden.

Whether or not or not having an historic octopus — or vampire squid — bearing your title is definitely a praise, the scientists say they meant admiration for the president’s science and analysis priorities.


The Related Press Well being and Science Division receives assist from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Division of Science Training. The AP is solely answerable for all content material.

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