Researchers Discover First Dinosaur Era Crab Fully Preserved in 100-Million-Year-Old Amber - SciTechDaily
Oct 21, 2021 1 min, 27 secs

Cretapsara athanata: The first crab in amber from the dinosaur era?

Discovery provides new insights into the evolution of crabs and when they spread around the world.

Looking at the ancient piece of amber, Javier Luque’s first thought wasn’t whether the crustacean trapped inside could help fill a crucial gap in crab evolution.

Credit: Artwork by Franz Anthony, courtesy of Javier Luque (Harvard University).

Previous fossil records, which mainly consist of bits and pieces of claws, suggested that nonmarine crabs came onto land and freshwater about 75 to 50 million years ago.

This new discovery pushes that back to at least 100 million years ago, answering Luque’s initial question of what this crab was doing in the jungle and bringing the fossil record in line to long-held theories on the genetic history of crabs.

athanata Luque gen.

(A) Whole amber sample with crab inclusion in ventral view.

(C) Whole amber sample with crab inclusion in dorsal view.

Credit: Images and figure by Javier Luque and Lida Xing.

“If we were to reconstruct the crab tree of life — putting together a genealogical family tree — and do some molecular DNA analysis, the prediction is that nonmarine crabs split from their marine ancestors more than 125 million years ago,” Luque said.

athanata Luque gen.

Credit: Images and figure by Elizabeth Clark and Javier Luque.

The work is part of a larger National Science Foundation funded project with Javier Ortega-Hernández, an assistant professor in OEB and curator of invertebrate paleontology in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Joanna Wolfe, a researcher Ortega-Hernández’ lab, and Heather Bracken-Grissom from Florida International University to investigate the evolution of crabs over 200 million years.

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