Why UC Riverside researchers named this sea fossil after Barack Obama

Why UC Riverside researchers named this sea fossil after Barack Obama

After living a rather uneventful life in the oceans of the planet about 500-million years ago, a newly-discovered creature has the honor to be named after a former United States President.

The animal is tiny - about 0.5 to 2 centimeters across - with raised spiral grooves on its back.

According to the scientists, Obamus coronatus was named after Obama because of the his strong passion for science, while coronatus stands for "crowned". The second part of the name is a reference to Jane Fargher, one of the owners of the property where the experts discovered the fossils.

An ocean creature found in Australia by researchers has been named after former President Barack Obama.

During O. coronatus' lifetime, in the Ediacara, a period lasting from about 635 million to 542 million years ago, the creature likely lived at the bottom of the ocean floor.

A scientific team headed up by researchers with the University of California-Riverside discovered the remains of two new identifiable genera and published their findings - at least on one of the fossils, Obamus coronatus - last week in the Australian Journal of Earth Sciences.

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UCR professor of paleontology Mary Droser, who led several studies about both creatures, said researchers were lucky to make such an incredible find.

The UC Riverside group dubbed the rich fossil bed as "Alice's Restaurant Bed" after the Arlo Guthrie song that went, "You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant". Both papers will be included in print in a 2019 thematic AJES issue focusing on South Australia's Flinders Ranges region, where the discoveries were made. From a taxonomy perspective, the Ediacara Biota are not yet organized into families, and scientists don't know much about how these creatures relate to modern life.

The two genera that we identified are a new body plan, unlike anything else that has been described.

Two new Ediacaran-era fossils discovered by UCR researchers: Obamus coronatus (left) and Attenborites janeae. That creature - Attenborites janeae - was even smaller, less than a centimeter across and shaped like an egg, complete "with ridges and grooves giving it a raisin-like appearance".

"We have been seeing evidence for these animals for quite a long time", Droser said, "but it took us a while to verify that they are animals within their own rights and not part of another animal".

Droser also commented on the importance of protecting the Flinders Ranges region, highlighting how these discoveries may help in the effort to obtain World Heritage Site status.

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