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Crab discovered in 100 MILLION-year-old amber is the oldest modern-looking crustacean ever found

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Remains of an ancient crab frozen in amber for 100 million years have been discovered, making it the oldest modern-looking crab ever discovered.

Earlier fossils, made up mostly of bits and pieces of claws, suggested that non-marine crabs emerged on land and in freshwater about 75 to 50 million years ago.

The 55-millimeter crab was discovered in the jungles of Southeast Asia and is the first ever found among dinosaurs.

“The discovery provides new insights into the evolution of these crustaceans and when they spread around the world,” Harvard University researchers, who analyzed the amber, shared in a press release.

Remains of an ancient crab frozen in amber for 100 million years have been discovered, making it the oldest modern-looking crab ever discovered. Earlier fossils, consisting mainly of bits and pieces of claws, suggested that non-marine crabs emerged on land and in freshwater about 75 to 50 million years ago.

Javier Luque, a postdoctoral researcher in the Harvard Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, said in a statement: “If we were to reconstruct the crab tree of life – put together a genealogical tree – and what molecular DNA analysis would do, prediction is not. -marine crabs split off from their marine ancestors more than 125 million years ago.

“But there’s a problem because the actual fossil record – the ones we can touch – are much young at 75 to 50 million years old… So this new fossil and its mid-Cretaceous period allow us to bridge the gap between the predicted molecular divergence and the actual crab fossil record.’

The specimen was originally found by miners in 2015, who recently shared it with the Longyin Amber Museum in China, allowing the Harvard team to look deeper.

The fossil was named Cretapsara athanata, “the immortal Cretaceous spirit of the clouds and waters,” in honor of South and Southeast Asian mythological spirits.

Researchers micro-CT scans during the analysis, allowing them to get a clear view of the details of the crab's delicate tissues, such as its antennae, legs and mouthparts lined with fine hair, large compound eyes and even its gills.

Researchers micro-CT scans during the analysis, allowing them to get a clear view of the details of the crab’s delicate tissues, such as its antennae, legs and mouthparts lined with fine hair, large compound eyes and even its gills.

Luque and his team used micro-CT scans during the analysis, which allowed them to get a clear picture of the details of the crab’s delicate tissues, such as the antennae, legs and mouthparts lined with fine hair, large compound eyes, and even its gills.

To their surprise, not a single hair was missing, the researchers said.

“The more we studied the fossil, the more we realized that this animal was very special in many ways,” Luque said.

The analysis found that the crab had no lung tissue, only well-developed gills indicating that the animal was not living entirely on land.

“Now we were dealing with an animal that is probably not marine, but also not completely terrestrial,” Luque said. “In the fossil record, non-marine crabs evolved 50 million years ago, but this animal is twice as old.”

The researchers hypothesize that the crab was a freshwater juvenile or that it was a semi-terrestrial juvenile crab. It may have migrated to land from the water, similar to the iconic red crabs on Christmas Island, where land-dwelling mothers release their offspring into the ocean before returning to land.

The researchers now believe that an event known as the Chalk Crab Revolution — when crabs (true or not) diversified worldwide and began developing their characteristic, evil-looking body shapes — happened more often than previously thought.

This new research brings the count of when different crab species independently evolved to live outside their marine habitat at at least 12 different times.

The 55-millimeter crab was discovered in the jungles of Southeast Asia and is the first ever found among dinosaurs.  Pictured is what the crab looked like when it walked on the earth

The 55-millimeter crab was discovered in the jungles of Southeast Asia and is the first ever found among dinosaurs. Pictured is what the crab looked like when it walked on the earth

Luque, who has been studying crab evolution for more than a decade, said he first discovered the specimen in 2018 and has been obsessed with it ever since.

“They’re all over the world, they make good aquarium pets, they’re delicious to those of us who eat them, and they’re celebrated in parades and festivals, and they even have their own zodiac sign,” Luque said.

‘Crabs in general are fascinating, and some of them look so bizarre – from tiny little pea-shaped crabs to giant coconut crabs.

“The diversity of shapes among crabs captures the imagination of both the scientific and non-scientific public, and right now people are excited to learn more about such a fascinating group that are not dinosaurs. This is a great moment for crabs.”

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