A portrait of pre-historic parenthood captured deep in the fossil record has been uncovered by an international team of scientists, led by geologist professor David Siveter from University of Leicester in Britain.
The 'nursery in the sea' has revealed a species new to science - with specimens preserved incubating their eggs together with probable hatched individuals.
"This is a very rare and exciting find from the fossil record. Only a handful of examples are known where eggs are fossilised and associated with the parent," Siveter said.
This discovery tells us that these ancient tiny marine crustaceans took particular care of their brood in exactly the same way as their living relatives, he added.
The team has named the new species Luprisca incuba after Lucina - the goddess of childbirth.
The discovery provides conclusive evidence of a reproductive and brood-care strategy conserved for at least 450 million years.
It also represents the oldest confirmed occurrence of ostracods in the fossil record.
The ostracods lived together with other invertebrate animals in poorly-oxygenated conditions in a sea bordering the margins of the ancient North American continent.
"The ostracods were probably capable of swimming near the sea bed and obtained their food by scavenging and hunting," said Siveter in the study published in the journal Current Biology.