10 Cretaceous Animals That Weren’t Dinosaurs

Ancient Lobsters
You're looking at a lobster fossil from the Late Jurassic. Wonder how that one would have tasted with drawn butter. © Layne Kennedy/Corbis

What do you see when you first walk into a seafood restaurant? Lobsters — an aquarium full of lobsters. Pick one out and have yourself a grand meal. Just remember this: What's on your plate is an evolutionary marvel, a survivor who outlasted T. rex and all the others. Lobsters beat the Late Cretaceous mass extinction to become one of the tastiest dishes on today's menu.

In fact, the ancestors of today's lobsters keep popping up in the fossilized record. In 2009, scientists announced they had found a new species of Late Cretaceous lobster in Iran. They called the critter Paraclytia valashtensis. It's special because it was the first time scientists found this particular species outside of Europe. Scientists discovered the well-preserved fossil in a limestone bed on the southeastern bank of Valasht Lake in northern Iran [source: McCobb and Hairapetian].

The Cretaceous Period brimmed with decapoda (10-footed) crustaceans, which include lobsters, crayfish and shrimp. In British Columbia, Canada, for example, scientists have found fossilized evidence of 22 species of decapoda crustaceans. Less than half became extinct by the end of the Cretaceous, with most species thriving in North America and Central America. They were able to scuttle up the evolutionary ladder, and their ancestors survive today [sources: Schweitzer et al.].

Pass the butter, please.