“Kite Runner” Arthropod That Carried Its Young in Tethers

"child tether"

As human beings, we are undeniably self-centered creatures. As much as we’d like to pretend otherwise, our brains are simply not wired to be able to see us as just the small, insignificant time period in Earth’s history. And it shouldn’t, because otherwise life would be much harder than it already is if we were to realize just how little an impact we made on things.

But I digress. We may have spent very little time here on Earth, as a species, but other species had it even worse. Some of these never even made it to the Cambrian explosion, being to doomed to live at the bottom of the ocean until going extinct. But the ocean floor all those hundreds of millions of years ago had some pretty interesting creatures roaming around.

For example, a team of researchers composed of members of four different British universities, the Imperial College London, Oxford, Yale, and Leicester found a “Kite Runner” arthropod that carried its young in tethers, pretty much like lazy adults do today with their leashed children.

According to the study’s lead author, Dr. Derek Briggs, invertebrate paleontology curator at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History and G. Evelyn Hutchinson Professor of Geology and Geophysics at Yale University,

Modern crustaceans employ a variety of strategies to protect their eggs and embryos from predators — attaching them to the limbs, holding them under the carapace, or enclosing them within a special pouch until they are old enough to be released — but this example is unique. Nothing is known today that attaches the young by threads to its upper surface.

The creature was named after the 2003 bestselling novel “The Kite Runner”, while is its scientifically given name is Aquilonifer spinosus (from the Latin ‘aquila’ for eagle or kite and ‘fer’, meaning ‘to carry’). The single fossil ever found of the creature was encountered with about ten younglings in different developmental stages, tethered to the adult.

These juveniles were carried around in pouches resembling miniature flattened lemons in one of the strangest child care habits ever encountered. The infants would look like kites floating above the adult as it moved around. And because the animals couldn’t really shed their exoskeleton until the younglings came of age, experts believe that the creatures went extinct because they couldn’t really adapt.

The country-wide team of experts will keep studying the creature in their attempts to find out more about these animals functioned in the Silurian period.

Image source: Flickr