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Scientific name: Mucrospirifer sp.
Common name: Butterfly
Age: Devonian, 416-359 mya
This beautiful shell belonged to a now extinct group of creatures known as Mucrospirifers or butterfly brachiopods, a group of over 131 species. They lived in oceans all over the world and have been used as index fossils due to their diversity, rapid change and great abundance. This means that the rock layer they are found in can be linked to a specific geologic time. They first appear in the fossil record during the Cambrian period (543-490 mya) and became very abundant and diverse during the Ordovician (488-443 mya) and Silurian (443-416 mya) periods. They have been found in such large clusters that it appears they may have formed large shelves of reef in some locations.
Brachiopods survived several periods of mass extinctions and returned each time with great growth and diversification. Most orders of brachiopods became extinct at the end of the Permian period (299-251 mya) and did not recover. Today living brachiopods represent only 1% of known species found. Most are represented in the fossil record only. They appear to be related to bivalves but are not and are threatened by the bivalves feeding habits. They feed on phytoplankton, a tiny organism, that is carried by water through the open valves of the brachiopod.