19,000,000 years ago...

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday, 31 March 2014 21:54

I have updated this post having realised that what I found at Burton Pond was quite unusual. Here is the original post:

'Just a quick one tonight. I was looking through some specimens from the survey at Burton Pond and came across this strange long white crustacean. I was stumped at first but then dug out the FBA crustacean key and got it to Niphargus aquilex. I had never even heard of this genus and I'm not surprised either, being that they are mostly underground/cave-dwelling species! I found this one at New Piece by sieving sphagnum! Has anyone else encountered this species/genus?'

Twitter went crazy after I posted this and someone sent me this link to this paper stating these creatures have remained unchanged for 19 million years and are the oldest (in the evolutionary sense) living things in the UK. There are some great facts from Mr Anonymous in the comments section that show that although not scarce, this is an animal that you rarely stumble across, you have to go looking for them. I love chance encounters like these.

4 Response to "19,000,000 years ago..."

Gibster Says:

Only once - in a nightmare - after eating waaaay too much cheese

Anonymous Says:

No, but found the spider Nesticus to be really abundant in some wet sedge beds in Sussex recently. Always thought of it as a cave spider. (It is known already from vegetation though.) The other possibility is nearby underground springs but......?

Anonymous Says:


Anonymous Says:

Niphargus aquilex is the commonest British niphargid, occurring in wells, interstitial gravels and other subterranean waters in southern England and Wales. It has been recorded from many locations, mostly south west of a line drawn from the East Coast of Kent to the Wirral Peninsula in Cheshire, with most records concentrated in the south. There are modern records from Lincolnshire, South-east Yorkshire and northern Wales, including Anglesey and very old records exist of the species from Hartlepool, County Durham (1893) and Henwick, Worcestershire (1863). This latter group of locations is north of the Devensian limit and imply that they might have been re-colonised by N. aquilex after the last ice age (see section on hypogean Crustacea ecology). N. aquilex is probably widely distributed in ground water and is liable to be found where this reaches the surface (e.g. springs) (Gledhill et.al., 1993). It has been found in low-lying ground (e.g. from under the Sphagnum moss cover of a mash near Wellington) where the soil-water zone is continuous with the phreatic, or ground-water, zone and it is thought that, in England at least, the species may be beginning to invade the soil-water zone (Glenniei, 1956). N. aquilex is occasionally collected whilst kick sampling for benthic macro-invertebrates in rivers and streams and is likely to be widespread in the hyporheic zone of many watercourses.

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