Fossil named after Johnny Depp

A 505 million-year-old fossil with “scissor hand-like” claws has been named after the movie star Johnny Depp.

Kooteninchela deppi (pronounced Koo-ten-ee-che-la depp-eye) was named after Depp because of his starring role as Edward Scissorhands.

The long-extinct sea creature is a distant ancestor of lobsters, scorpions, spiders and even the prawns that people eat in their sandwiches.

It was discovered by David Legg, who carried out the research as part of his PhD in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London.

An artist's impression of Kooteninchela deppiImperial College London

An artist's impression of Kooteninchela deppi

“When I first saw the pair of isolated claws in the fossil records of this species I could not help but think of Edward Scissorhands.

“Even the genus name, Kootenichela, includes the reference to this film as 'chela' is Latin for claws or scissors,” he said.

“In truth, I am also a bit of a Depp fan and so what better way to honour the man than to immortalise him as an ancient creature that once roamed the sea?”

The researcher also said: “Just imagine it, the prawns covered in mayonnaise in your sandwich, the spider climbing up your wall and even the fly that has been banging into your window and annoyingly flying into your face are all descendants of Kooteninchela deppi.”

The creature lived in very shallow seas, similar to modern coastal environments, off the coast of British Columbia in Canada, which was situated much closer to the equator 500 million years ago. 

The sea temperature would have been much hotter than it is today and although coral reefs had not yet been established, Kooteninchela deppi would have lived in a similar environment consisting of sponges.

Kooteninchela deppi is thought to have been a hunter or scavenger. The animal's large Edward Scissorhands-like claws with their elongated spines may have been used to capture prey or they could have helped it to probe the sea floor where it looked for sea creatures hiding in sediment.

Kooteninchela deppi was approximately four centimetres long with an elongated trunk for a body and millipede-like legs, which it used to scuttle along the sea floor with the occasional short swim.

It also had large, fly-like compound eyes positioned on top of movable stalks to help it more easily search for food and look out for predators.