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New horseshoe crab fossil from Germany demonstrates post-Triassic extinction of Austrolimulidae

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 February 2021

Russell D. C. Bicknell*
Palaeoscience Research Centre, School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales, 2351, Australia
Andreas Hecker
Jura Museum, 85072Eichstätt, Germany
Alexander M. Heyng
amh-Geo, 84168Aham, Germany
Author for correspondence: Russell D. C. Bicknell, Email:


Horseshoe crabs within Austrolimulidae represent the extreme limits to which the xiphosurid Bauplan could be modified. Recent interest in this group has uncovered an unprecedented diversity of these odd-ball xiphosurids and led to suggestions that Austrolimulidae arose during the Permian Period and had become extinct by the end of the Triassic Period. Here, we extend the temporal record of Austrolimulidae by documenting a new horseshoe crab from the Lower Jurassic (Hettangian) Bayreuth Formation, Franconiolimulus pochankei gen. et sp. nov. The novel specimen displays hypertrophied genal spines, a key feature indicative of Austrolimulidae, but does not show as prominent accentuation or reduction of other exoskeletal sections. In considering the interesting family, we explore the possible origins and explanations for the bizarre morphologies exhibited by the Austrolimulidae and present hypotheses regarding the extinction of the group. Further examination of horseshoe crab fossils with unique features will undoubtedly continue to increase the diversity and disparity of these curious xiphosurids.

Original Article
© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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