First Ever Discovery: Oldest Aquatic Animal Found in Amber

Using micro-CT scans, the team visualized the crab's body in 3-D and even imaged its mouthparts lined with fine hairs. It is unknown if the five-millimeter-long crab is a full-grown adult, a juvenile or a baby. Xiao Jia (Longyin Amber Museum)

This Tiny Crustacean Trapped in Amber Tells a Different Story About Crab Evolution

Elizabeth Gamillo/

A team of scientists has discovered the oldest aquatic animal preserved in amber. The tiny crab encased in tree resin is over 100 million years old, dating back to the Cretaceous era, according to the study published this week in Science Advances. The find—the most complete fossilized crab ever seen—is helping researchers piece together when the crustaceans began to migrate away from the sea.

Scientists can piece together what life was like millions of years ago from preserved specimens like amber fossils and bones. Insects, plants, feathers and microorganisms are specimens most likely to be found entrapped in amber. However, finding an aquatic critter fossilized in resin is extremely rare. “Finding a crab in amber is like finding a needle in a haystack,” Heather Bracken-Grissom, a biologist from Florida International University, not involved with the study, told Riley Black for National Geographic.

The animal is so well preserved that its compound eyes, claws, jointed legs and gills are visible in full detail, reports National Geographic. Using micro-CT scans, the international team visualized the crab’s body in 3D and even imaged its mouthparts lined with fine hairs.

Read full article atSmithsonisan Mag


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