To be classified as a living fossil (or as I like to call it, a Modern Dinosaur), a
species must have a clear ancestor in the fossil record that highly resembles our
modern species. Often these species have few living relatives. (For example, the
aardvark is currently the only living member of its genus.) People tend to think of
birds and reptiles when they think of living fossils, but animals from any group can
be classified as such. In this piece, I have sought to explore these differences.
Among these uniquely diverse group of animals are the African Lungfish, with its
ability to breathe through special lungs, living in hardened clay burrows during the
dry season, awaiting the coming rains; the Shoe-Billed Stork, the largest bird of
flight with its icy stare and prehistoric appearance, with an aggressively unusual
call; the Alligator, unchanged for millennia, living side by side with it Kingfisher
neighbors, not always peacefully; and the Aardvark, the great nocturnal excavator
I have long been fascinated by fossils. The urge to learn as much as I could about
prehistoric animals has never left me, like it does to most around the age of 10.
Paired with my love of zoos, being interested in living fossils only makes sense.
A portion of all proceeds from Modern Dinosaur will go to the Henry Doorly Zoo
and Aquarium in Omaha, Nebraska. This facility manages the Species Survival
Program (SSP) for Aardvarks for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the
primary accreditation organization for North America animal collections.