Living Fossils

Today’s planet is teeming with life-forms that have existed, apparently unchanged, for millions of years. They are often labelled ‘living fossils’ because they have somehow survived mass extinctions; large shifts in climate and geological changes; and the growing and destructive presence of humans. But what is it about these remarkable animals that make them so successful at enduring the passing millennia? The term ‘living fossil’ is a misnomer. Apart from the fact that fossils are not ‘living’, it is not a term scientists actually use. Most agree that extant (present day) species are not frozen in time, but instead have evolved many genetic and cellular changes over millions of years – something that fossils cannot reveal. Yet the fact remains that many species today still bear striking similarities to their ancient ancestors. These are some of nature’s great survivors.

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