Paleontologists at the University of Alberta discovered a new and bizarre species of crab fossil with features of various marine arthropods.
"We began to study these fossils and found that they looked like the eyes of a larva of a shrimp, claws of a frog crab, and a lobster's shell," said Javier Luque, a postdoctoral fellow with a Ph.D. Chimera thought a Greek mythology monster with a lion's head, a goat's body, and the tail of a snake, when he came upon the discovery.
"These new fossils break all these rules."
While the unusual crab has characteristics of many different families, paleontologists actually occupy a new branch on the life's crustacean tree ̵
Discovery is in the details
The fossilized crabs, which were salvaged from the Andes in Colombia, lived during the Cretaceous period in a shallow coastal sea 90 to 9 5 million years ago. The researchers restored more than 70 soft-shelled specimens along with hundreds of other crustaceans such as shrimp and lobster.
Although the fossils are no larger than a quarter, Luque explained that because of their exceptional preservation, the scientists used fine details such as paddle legs and large eyes, suggesting that the crabs were swimming their lives instead of crawling as they do today.
"We found dozens of animals, from small baby specimens to mature individuals, where we found reproductive organs – a smoking weapon proving that they were adult organisms rather than larvae. We can even see individual facets on the large compound eyes of these creatures, "said Luque. "It's an incredible amount of detail, and we were able to reconstruct it as if it had lived yesterday."
This detail allowed researchers to create a detailed 3D model of the species.
Find new body shapes in older rocks, such as the Paleozoic, when life exploded into many new forms, "said Luque. "This mid-Cretaceous discovery shows that there are still surprising discoveries of newer, weird organisms that are waiting to be found, especially in the tropics."
"One wonders what else is there to discover
The research was conducted with support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Killam Trusts, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, the Colombian geological survey, the Colombian Association of Petroleum Geologists and Geophysicists, and the ARES Geological Corporation
The study "Extraordinary Conservation of Mid-Cretaceous Maritime Arthropods and the Development of Novel Forms Using Heterochronism" was published in Science Advances.
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