100 Million Year Old Discovery is ‘One of a Kind’

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No, this isn’t a cheesy Jurassic Park knock-off as much as it may look like it, and in fact, fossils trapped in amber have been fascinating paleontologists for over a century. Instead, this is one of the oldest aquatic animals to ever be found preserved in amber at about 100 million years old. It’s a bit of a big discovery given that amber is petrified tree resin, so you’re typically going to see land creatures or insects, even avians preserved, but not crabs. And this is the single most complete fossil of a crab ever discovered.

According to CTVNews,

“The specimen is spectacular, it is one of a kind. It’s absolutely complete and is not missing a single hair on the body, which is remarkable,”

said Javier Luque, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, in a news release. He was the lead author of the study that published Thursday in the journal Science Advances.”

The fossil was found in northern Myanmar and the joint Chinese, American, and Canadian team named the dainty crustacean Cretapsara athanta. The researchers believe that athanta wasn’t just a sea-dwelling crab but one that had a mixed life cycle and probably lived in either fresh or brackish water perhaps on a forest floor. They also suggested it was possible that the crab was migrating onto land similar to red Christmas Island crabs.

The Oldest Crab Fossils to Make The Jump To Land

A Discovery 100 Million Years In The Making

The 100-million-year-old crab looks a lot like the crabs that live on our shores today and the fossil is amazingly detailed with ” delicate body parts like antennae, gills and fine hairs on the mouthparts.” At only 5 millimeters long it was likely a baby.

The oldest crabs in the fossil record are from the Jurassic period over 200 million years ago and lived alongside the dinosaurs. But fossils of land-based crabs are pretty incomplete.

“In the fossil record, non-marine crabs evolved 50 million years ago, but this animal is twice that age,” said Luque. The research team believes that the Cretapsara athanta proves that crabs made that crucial jump from being sea creatures to land and freshwater spawning during the Jurassic period right alongside the development of Dinosauria, not during the rise of the mammals but far earlier than science had theorized.

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