June 19, 2024

First Dinosaur Era Crab Discovered – Fully Preserved in 100-Million-Year-Old Amber

By Harvard University, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
October 24, 2021

The crab fossil record extends back into the early Jurassic, more than 200 million years back. Fossils of nonmarine crabs are sporadic and mostly restricted to bits and pieces of the animals carapace– claws and legs found in sedimentary rocks. That is previously with the discovery of Cretapsara athanata. “The specimen is magnificent, it is among a kind. Its absolutely total and is not missing a single hair on the body, which is impressive,” said lead author Javier Luque, postdoctoral scientist in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University.
3D mesh of C. athanata Luque gen. et sp. nov. holotype LYAM-9. (A to E) 3D mesh drawn out from reconstructed micro-CT information in VGSTUDIO MAX, remeshed in MeshLab, and pictured utilizing Autodesk Maya: (A) dorsal, (B) ventral, (C) best lateral, (D) oblique postero-dorsal, (E) oblique antero-ventral views, showing the claws of equal size and four sets of slim legs comparable fit and size, with P5 a little smaller than the other legs. (F and G) Details of the dorsal (F) and ventral (G) carapace, showing details of the big eyes and orbits, small antennae, and a little, severe external orbital spine [( F) thick arrow], two little anterolateral spines (F, thin arrows), a posterolateral margin bearing a minimum of four small and equidistant tubercles (F, little arrows), straight posterior margin, slender coxae of the pereopods, a normal heterotreme eubrachyuran breast bone (G), and a minimized and folded pleon with the first pleonites dorsally exposed. Left 5th pereopod digitally reattached. bcg, branchiocardiac groove; ca, carpus; cg, cervical groove; cx, coxa; da, dactylus; ib, ischiobasis; ma, manus or palm of claw; P1, claws or chelipeds; P2 to P5, pereopods or walking legs 2 to 5; po, pollex or repaired finger cheliped propodus; pr, propodus. Credit: Images and figure by Elizabeth Clark and Javier Luque. Utilized in journal.A group of researchers led by co-lead author Lida Xing, China University of Geosciences, Beijing, made micro CT scans of the fossil, which is housed in the Longyin Amber Museum in Yunnan, China. The scans developed a full three-dimensional reconstruction of the elegant preservation of the animal enabling Luque, Xing, and their team to see the total body of the animal including fragile tissues, like the mouthparts and antennae lined with great hairs. Shockingly they discovered the animal also had gills.
” The more we studied the fossil, the more we understood that this animal was very special in many ways,” stated Luque. Cretapsara is extremely modern-looking– superficially looking like some shore crabs discovered today– unlike a lot of crabs during the mid-Cretaceous period which looked rather various from modern-day crabs. The animal was entombed in Cretaceous amber and the existence of strong gills showed an aquatic to semi-aquatic animal. Water animals are seldom maintained in tree resins that end up being amber. Crabs previously found in amber are by the handful and belong to a living group of tropical land and tree-dwelling crabs referred to as Sesarmidae from the Miocene (15 million years ago). How then, the scientists asked, did a 100 million years of age water animal become maintained in tree amber, which generally houses land-dwelling specimens?
1. C. athanata Luque gen. et sp. nov., a modern-looking eubrachyuran crab in Burmese amber. (A to D) Holotype LYAM-9. (A) Whole amber sample with crab inclusion in ventral view. (B) Close-up of forward carapace. (C) Whole amber sample with crab inclusion in dorsal view. (D) Close-up of dorsal carapace. White arrows in (B) and (D) show the detached left fifth leg or pereopod. Credit: Images and figure by Javier Luque and Lida Xing.
Crabs have effectively and separately dominated land, brackish water, and fresh water at least twelve times considering that the dinosaur era. “Now we were dealing with an animal that is most likely not marine, however also not fully terrestrial,” Luque said. “In the fossil record, nonmarine crabs developed 50 million years ago, but this animal is two times that age.”.
The teams phylogenetic research studies reveal that carcinization (the development of true crab-looking forms) had in fact currently took place in the most recent common ancestor shared by all contemporary crabs more than 100 million years earlier. Cretapsara bridges the space in the fossil record and verifies that crabs actually got into land and fresh water during the dinosaur era, not throughout the mammal era, pressing the advancement of nonmarine crabs much even more back in time.
The scientists assume that Cretapsara, determining at 5 millimeters in leg period, was a juvenile crab of a freshwater to amphibious species. Or, that the animal is maybe a semi-terrestrial juvenile crab migrating onto land from water as strikes the renowned Christmas Island red crabs where land residence mother crabs release their children into the ocean, which later on swarm out of the water back onto land. They even more hypothesize that like the crabs discovered in amber from the Miocene, Cretapsara might have been a tree climber. “These Miocene crabs are really contemporary looking crabs and, as their extant loved ones, they live in trees in little ponds of water,” stated Luque, “these arboreal crabs can get trapped in tree resin today, but would it describe why Cretapsara is maintained in amber?”.
Luques research is focused on comprehending why things evolve into crabs, and their evolution and diversification in time resulting in the modern forms seen today. “This research study is pushing the timing of origin of a lot of these groups back in time. Every fossil we find challenges our prejudgments about the time and place of origin of a number of organisms, frequently making us look even more back in time,” Luque said.
The study is part of a National Science Foundation funded job with Luque, Professor Javier Ortega-Hernández and postdoctoral researcher Joanna Wolfe, both in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, and Professor Heather Bracken-Grissom, Florida International University.
The researchers chose the name Cretapsara athanata, which implies the immortal Cretaceous spirit of the clouds and waters, to honor the Cretaceous, throughout which this crab lived, and Apsara, a spirit of the clouds and waters in South and Southeast Asian mythology. The species name is based upon “athanatos”, never-ceasing, referring to its lifelike preservation as if frozen in time in the time capsule that is amber.
For more on this research, checked out Researchers Discover First Dinosaur Era Crab Fully Preserved in 100-Million-Year-Old Amber.
Reference: “Crab in amber exposes an early colonization of non-marine environments during the Cretaceous” by Javier Luque, Lida Xing, Derek E. G. Briggs, Elizabeth G. Clark, Alex Duque, Junbo Hui, Huijuan Mai and Ryan C. McKellar, 20 October 2021, Science Advances.DOI: 10.1126/ sciadv.abj5689.
Authors Statement: The studied fossil, deposited in the Longyin Amber Museum (LYAM), Yunnan Province, China, originates from a batch of business “raw” (dull, unpolished) amber pieces gathered by regional miners and sold to a vendor at an amber precious jewelry market in Myitkyina on May 12, 2015. The polished piece consisting of the fossil studied was gotten by LYAM from the vendors mineral shop in Tengchong, China, on August 10, 2015. We acknowledge the presence of a sociopolitical conflict in northern Myanmar and have actually restricted our research study to product preceding the 2017 resumption of hostilities in the region. We hope that conducting research study on specimens gathered prior to the dispute and acknowledging the situation in the Kachin State will serve to raise awareness of the present conflict in Myanmar and the human expense behind it.

Cretapsara is incredibly modern-looking– superficially looking like some coast crabs discovered today– unlike a lot of crabs during the mid-Cretaceous era which looked quite different from contemporary crabs. Crabs formerly discovered in amber are by the handful and belong to a living group of tropical land and tree-dwelling crabs known as Sesarmidae from the Miocene (15 million years ago). “These Miocene crabs are truly contemporary looking crabs and, as their extant loved ones, they live in trees in little ponds of water,” said Luque, “these arboreal crabs can get trapped in tree resin today, but would it describe why Cretapsara is protected in amber?”.

Both Cretapsara and Callichimaera are new branches in the crab tree of life that lived during the Cretaceous Crab Revolution, a duration when crabs diversified around the world and the very first contemporary groups stemmed while numerous others vanished.
True crabs are found all around the world, from the depths of the oceans, to coral reefs, beaches, rivers, caves, and even in trees as true crabs are among the couple of animal groups that have actually dominated land and freshwater numerous times.

Artistic reconstruction of Cretapsara athanata: The immortal Cretaceous spirit of the clouds and waters. Credit: Artwork by Franz Anthony, thanks to Javier Luque (Harvard University).
Fossils trapped in amber supply a special photo of the anatomy, biology, and ecology of extinct organisms. The most typical fossils discovered in amber, which is formed from resin radiated from tree bark, are land-dwelling animals, mainly bugs. However on extremely uncommon events scientists discover amber housing a marine organism.
The study used micro CT to explain and examine Cretapsara athanata, the oldest modern-looking crab (roughly 100 million years old) and the most complete fossil crab ever found. Both Cretapsara and Callichimaera are new branches in the crab tree of life that lived throughout the Cretaceous Crab Revolution, a duration when crabs varied around the world and the very first contemporary groups came from while many others vanished.
Cretapsara athanata: The first crab in amber from the dinosaur age. Credit: Xiao Jia (Longyin Amber Museum).
Real crabs, or Brachyura, are a renowned group of shellfishes whose remarkable variety of types, species richness, and financial importance have inspired events and festivals worldwide. Theyve even earned a special function in the pantheon of social networks. True crabs are discovered all around the world, from the depths of the oceans, to coral reefs, beaches, rivers, caves, and even in trees as true crabs are among the couple of animal groups that have dominated land and freshwater numerous times.