I notice from the good old internet, that a giant, person sized, ‘lobster’ fossil has been found in Morocco,

“The fossil itself was first found by fossil hunter Mohamed Ben Moula and is named in his honour: Aegirocassis benmoulae. The first part of the name refers to a giant Norse sea god (Aegir) and the Latin for helmet (cassis).”


reconstruction of Aegirocassis benmoulae

I do like this reconstruction. Ridiculous of me, I know, but I think it looks like its smiling.

The paper has been published in Nature and here’s the link for the interested: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature14256.html

It’s not exactly a lobster, though, but a filter feeding anomalocaridid, from a family of sea creatures that lived during the Cambrian period, about 520 million years ago. This giant lobster, lived nearly 40 million years later than most of its relatives in the early Ordovician period. It would have been one of the largest animals alive during that time. It is related to modern crustaceans, and also insects and spiders, although it looks like it swam about using fins, rather than legs.

I’ve found the anomalocaridids fascinating since I read Stephen Jay Gould’s book, ‘Wonderful Life’, back when I was a geology student. The book was about the explosion of Cambrian fauna, found as fossils in the Burgess Shale, in Canada. The Burgess Shale has fossils in an incredible state of preservation, with even soft tissues such as gills being visible. The Oxford researcher, Simon Conway Morris, had been working on these fossils and had discovered a number of whole new phyla of life, most of which have now completely disappeared. The original Anomalocaris fossil that Conway Morris described was a ferocious predator, and I liked to imagine it swooping down on hapless little trilobites and crunching them up. This big fellow was a filter feeder, like a baleen whale, crusing around, living on food that it filtered from the water using its tiny appendages.

Aegirocassis benmoulae fossil

It looks like an absolutely beautifully preserved fossil, and it’s certainly large. Looking at the reconstructions of the beastie, I am reminded of that line in Jaws, when Roy Schneider sees the size of the shark for the first time (and if by some mischance you haven’t seen that brilliant film, here’s a link for a clip: https://youtu.be/2I91DJZKRxs). Any time travelling lobster fisherman is going to need a bigger lobster pot.

I don’t know if I am likely to find inspiration from this fossil in my ceramic work, but I have found inspiration from modern lobsters for the decoration of some of my coiled pots. I find lobsters absolutely fascinating to look at, they are almost like little aquatic aliens with their spiny legs, gills and what amounts to a suit of shelly armour.

Coiled pot with lobster sgraffito, Deb Langner, 2014

The red glaze here wasn’t spectacularly successful, and the sgraffito pattern doesn’t stand out particularly strongly without an underglaze to highlight it, but I’ve learned a few things from making these pieces (last year) and my work has moved on accordingly.

After all, if the lobsters can evolve, why can’t my work?