paleontology: fossil found by bus driver “of enormous value”

The remains of the earliest-known land-living animal have been discovered — not by a famous paleontologist but by Scottish bus driver and amateur fossil hunter Mike Newman. Newman found the tiny fossilized millipede in the Scottish seaside town of Stonehaven and donated it to the National Museums of Scotland. Experts there and from Yale University report in the January issue of the Journal of Paleontology that the primitive breathing holes found on its body and its approximate age of 428 million years make it the oldest air-breathing animal yet found. “This fossil is of enormous scientific value. It demonstrates that air-breathing animals lived on land over 20 million years earlier than we thought, and changes our understanding of the landscape at that time,” study author Lyall Anderson of the National Museums stated in a press release. The new species of millipede, Pneumodesmus newmani, has been named after its discoverer. “Well, that’s pretty cool really,” Newman told the World Today radio program, “because, you know, it’s going to have that name pretty much forever, and it’s just not any old creature; it’s not like a shell or anything like that.”

This news brief appeared in the Discoveries column of the Boston Globe’s Health/Science section on 2/03/2004.
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